09 June 2024

Downtown Plaza, Sacramento, CA

 A dead mall

My family and I were spending a few days in the Bay Area in 2008 when they decided to do some sightseeing.  Having visited the same region several instances during my years with the airlines, I decided to go off on my own adventure as one can only take in the sights and smells of Fisherman’s Wharf so many times.  Where did I go that day?  I took a short drive inland to California’s capital city, Sacramento.

1- The downtown skyline from the Sacramento River.  2- Downtown from the California State Capitol lawn.  3- The California State Capitol building.  4- One of the many murals downtown.  5 & 6- Scenes of Old Sacramento.

Back in those days, urban vertical shopping malls were still a pretty common feature in city centers.  Horton Plaza was still bringing them in with its unique architecture while Pacific Place and MacArthur Center were still finding success.  I was on my way to see the City of Trees’ own central retail destination, Downtown Plaza.

1- The Macy’s second location, formerly Weinstock’s.  2- The Fifth Street underpass.

After a quick walk through the city’s tourist district at Old Sacramento with its genuine old west theme featuring souvenir shops and microbreweries, I crossed under the steel arch welcoming me to downtown proper.  And just beyond that ornate entrance I could see my destination.

Downtown Plaza lease plan ca. 2011.  View the full PDF version here.

Though not fully enclosed, most of the common area was fairly sheltered from the elements.  The double tiered facility ran for several city blocks between Seventh and Fourth Streets with a portion running over Fifth.  At the time there was only one anchor, Macy’s, though the brand held two separate locations.

1- The eastern entrance of Downtown Plaza. (Source)  2- View of the original Macy’s.  3- The central rotunda during a gala event.  4- The court and mezzanine in front of the original Macy’s.  5- Christmas coming to Downtown Plaza.  6- The center hosting a sandcastle competition. (Source for 2 to 6)

The common areas, adorned in accents suited to weather the elements, were highlighted by an impressive rotunda located right at its heart which played host to scores of community events over the years.  It boasted standard fare for malls of its age such as American Eagle and Payless Shoesource mixed with several entertainment destinations.

Downtown Plaza came to be in 1971 as a hybrid open-air/enclosed facility built to compliment the downtown Macy’s outlet that had been in business since 1963.  One of the earliest examples of its kind, it soon welcomed a second and third anchor with Weinstock’s and Liberty House opening their own locations in 1979 and 1981 respectively.

1- The wrought iron arch welcoming visitors from Old Sacramento.  2- What’s left of the main entrance during reconstruction in 2017.  3- The 1963 Macy’s store.  4 to 6- The new Downtown Commons as a work in progress in 2017.

Liberty House’s short tenure ended in 1984 when they were replaced by I. Magnin, which itself departed in 1992.  The structure was then integrated into the common area of Downtown Plaza.  Weinstock’s was darkened in 1995 and reopened in 1997 as a second Macy’s location.

DOCO Mallmanac ca. 2022.  View the full PDF version here.

After my initial visit in 2008, many changes came to Downtown Plaza.  I was witness to some of them in my last visit in 2017.  By then, a large portion of the old building had been demolished.  Only the former Liberty House, a small portion of the mall in front of Macy’s and the Macy’s itself were kept.  Where the balance of the retail facility once sat was built the Golden 1 Center, home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

1- A new sign announcing DOCO near the Fifth Street underpass that was kept for the new development.  2 to 5- The Golden 1 Center and its surrounding plaza where the mid-section of Downtown Plaza once stood.  6- Macy’s next to the Golden 1 Center.

Overall I like what’s been done with what was once Downtown Plaza.  Now named Downtown Commons, it is mostly referred to as DOCO.  It now exists as an entertainment district to compliment the Golden 1 Center and once again is a valuable asset in the city’s central business district.

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