From a distance you can almost hear music as you approach the Village Center. Driving west and south on Fair Oaks Boulevard you have just passed under the east portal of the Village, a large bronze archway integrated into a lush street landscape, and the sights and sounds of the Village begin to surround you. The section of Fair Oaks Boulevard you just drove used to be a wide thoroughfare, but now expanded landscaping in the street median and in front of the sidewalk has begun to provide a tree canopy that frames a much calmer street. The older utilitarian streetscape is being updated to be consistent and attractive, and retail stores are being fixed up. The sidewalk and storefronts are a new kind of public space that complement the new apartments across the street.
Turning right at Main street, you stay on Fair Oaks Boulevard and head toward the newly-constructed roundabout, passing the new Fair Oaks Water District building on the left and a grouping of specialty shops and eateries on the right. The continuous sidewalks are new and complemented by period street furniture, marked crosswalks and lamp posts. Under construction near the roundabout, a three- story parking structure is integrated into the hill and almost blends into the retail center. Traveling most of the circle, the large bronze chicken and the adjacent, mature oak trees create a sense of place for the “main” street you are about to turn onto. The sounds of Sunrise Boulevard are off to the right well beyond another gateway monument for those entering the Village from the west. At the corner above the roundabout, the vastly remodeled and expanded “Town House” advertises a soon-to-be-opened wine bar and restaurant. The large open air patio wraps around the corner and extends down “main” street towards the old Chamber of Commerce building site that now contains a small business center.
The main street is full of patrons wandering through specialty shops, eateries and art galleries, whose displays range from outdoor pottery to handmade jewelry to landscape painting by local artisans. The main street is alive with color from raised landscape boxes filled with annuals, and street banners hanging from the period street lights. The building on the right has a new façade and sidewalk. Traffic is slow and constant but moving cautiously with the steady stream of foot traffic moving to the park for a concert at the remodeled amphitheatre. The recent park improvements provide more seating and areas for street vendors and umbrella carts providing snacks and beverages to the show goers.
California Street is alive with theater patrons and Village strollers out for an evening of entertainment. Dozens of tables fill a wide sidewalk where cafes and restaurants serve guests who have views of the park and the theater complex. Matching ornamental iron street furniture provides a unique accent to newly-placed brick paver sidewalks and crosswalks.
Moving south across California Avenue, the new diagonal parking and the planting of new street trees provide a buffer for pedestrians visiting the stores and eateries on both sides of the boulevard. A new small boutique hotel is under construction up on the hill next to the hardware store that will offer fine dining and bed and breakfast style accommodations. Many of the businesses have redone their exteriors to enhance their beauty. The result is a visual feast of architectural interest.
Heading down the hill toward the south entrance to the Village, a decorative, low-profile parking structure has opened on the corner between the Village Boulevard and Sunrise Boulevard. Small trolley buses and hansom cabs wait around the side of it to pick up Village patrons. The pedestrian- friendly intersection discourages speeding on the Village Boulevard, dispersing it in several directions toward Bridge Street and the parking garage entrance. The intersection has activity from cyclists and walkers coming up Bridge Street from the American River Parkway, while others filter down to the restaurants along Howard to stroll the Village. Turning right, you pass under the south Village entrance arch to the corner of Fair Oaks Boulevard and Sunrise Boulevard, and rejoin the rest of Sacramento on a typical day.