Sacramento – By Jon Ortiz / The Sacramento Bee
New York has the Empire State Building, and San Francisco has the Transamerica Pyramid. Sacramento has its Tower Bridge and the Wells Fargo Center, but soon the familiar skyline may be altered with a capital version of the Parthenon.
Angelo G. Tsakopoulos, nephew of developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, this month unveiled plans for The Parthenon, a 29-story office tower at 500 Capitol Mall that would be capped with a scale replica of the Greek goddess Athena’s temple.
Angelo G. said the Parthenon’s design is intended to honor his Greek forebears. “As a family, we will cherish the building as a tribute to the perseverance and accomplishment of our parents, George and Drosoula Tsakopoulos,” Angelo G. Tsakopoulos said in e-mail correspondence with The Bee.
The Tsakopolous family originally hailed from the Greek village of Rizai. Now in the United States for five decades, the family has made money in real estate and is well-known for involvement in Sacramento’s Greek community and donations to charitable causes.
The 430,000-square-foot office building — which would be one of the city’s tallest — would cost an estimated $105 million to $115 million. Initial reaction to The Parthenon. Architect David Eisen called it “a very uncomfortable mix of boring and overbearing” when he was asked to assess a digital rendering of the building.
“This is the kind of kitschy proposal that might make sense in Disneyland or Las Vegas,” said Eisen, a former architecture critic for the Boston Herald who was educated at Harvard Design School. “It is an insult to the people of Sacramento.” Eisen said that the proportions of the tower, its mix of modern and classic themes and its proximity to the Capitol are all strikes against the design.
“It sends a very bad message to out-of-towners. It’s like you have no faith in today or the future, so imitating the past is the only direction you can go,” he concluded. “This proposal undermines the Capitol’s architecture, appearing as if it is trying to one-up it.”
Architect Edwin M. Kado, who designed the Parthenon, said he heard the same talk about one of his signature projects, The Ziggurat, a terraced pyramid along West Sacramento’s waterfront.
When that building opened in 1998, one Sacramento designer called it “hyped-up architecture” that “verges on Las Vegas” and other people described as “gaudy” and “too touristy.” That talk has died down, Kado said. These days, the building is often featured as a civic symbol on nationally televised Kings games.
“Any worthy architecture needs to incite some interest and controversy,” he said, “especially if you’re going to create a memorable, distinctive building.”
It’s possible that Sacramento’s skyline could have several distinctive new structures in a few years.
Developer John Saca is taking deposits from prospective residents who want to live in twin 53-story condominium and hotel towers he’s proposed for 301 Capitol Mall.
Downtown construction mogul David Taylor is working to build an office tower, the so-called “Lot A” project, on the Mall’s 600 block.
And Denver-based BCN Development wants to construct a 38-story tower on the western portion of “Lot A” next to Taylor’s parcel.
Architecture aside, the Parthenon would be built in a downtown market that has a daunting office vacancy rate of nearly 17 percent. Still, the downtown’s net absorption — the change in occupied space — was a positive 91,074 square feet for the first quarter of 2005. Only 25,000 square feet of new offices are under construction, according to Cornish & Carey Commercial.
Workers near 500 Capitol Mall who saw a rendering of the Parthenon weighed in Thursday with mixed reviews.
Sacramentan Galen Scott, a security officer at an adjacent office building, said he would be happy to see the current abandoned building at 500 Capitol Mall torn down, calling it an eyesore and magnet for the homeless seeking cover at night.
“I’m glad to see something useful taking its place. It will blend in with everything,” Scott said.
Almis Udrys, an auditor who lives downtown and works across from the proposed building, called the design a hybrid between classic and modern architecture. He would prefer to see the entire building designed with a single motif.
“I have no idea what I would call this,” he said. “It looks kind of like, ‘Oh, let’s see if we can crown this with something funky-looking.” I think somebody would come to town and make fun of that, frankly. They would come to Sacramento and say somebody went off the deep end.”
Not so, said Kado, architect of the Parthenon building.
“This building adheres to the city’s building guidelines,” he said. “It’s in keeping with the scale of the area, and it’s an appropriate piece to pay tribute to the Tsakopoulos family and their hard work. I don’t see anything wrong with it.”