The Tsakopoulos name is prominent on some admired Downtown landmarks, with good reason. A gift from Angelo Tsakopoulos in his wife’s honor closed a financing gap at The Sofia B Street Theatre complex on Capitol Avenue. Not far away, he helped fund the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on I Street.
But another member of the family, Angelo’s nephew Sotiris Kolokotronis, who freely admits he moved from his native Greece to Sacramento because the California capital seemed like a good place to make money, has had more to do with shaping Downtown’s renaissance than just about anyone.
For the irrepressibly upbeat and optimistic Kolokotronis—he took a hard fall in the last recession when the market wasn’t as enthusiastic as he was—his recent success is as sweet as a slice of baklava.
“You never know how things come together,” the 60-year-old developer said during a recent interview at a Midtown restaurant. “You throw different things at the wall and something will stick. But as far as rediscovering the urban core, someone else said, you need to go through hell to get to heaven. I use that comment all the time. You really need to hit rock bottom sometimes for things to come back together, and it looks like we’re getting there.”
That is probably an understatement for the city’s core and for Kolokotronis himself. When he made headlines a few years ago, the news was all about financial setbacks and dashed plans. Now he is proudly showing off new apartment buildings, lofts, visionary urban infill, big ideas for future projects and an energetic vision for the city’s core.
As City Councilmember Steve Hansen, whose district includes Downtown and Midtown, put it, “Sotiris has been the most consequential and prolific developer of infill housing in the central city, not only because of his buildings, but also because he’s inspired others to tackle complicated and ambitious projects, too. The sum of his impact can be seen in the increased vibrancy and quality of life in Midtown, 16th Street and the eastern R Street corridor.”
Factor in the impact of his wife—Matina Kolokotronis is chief operating officer for the Sacramento Kings and was heavily involved in planning Golden 1 Center—the Kolokotronis legacy is even more impressive.
After a development career that started in Sacramento’s sprawling suburbs in Folsom and Laguna, Kolokotronis and his partners have brought to the center city 501 residential units and 31,400 square feet of retail, with another 467 residential units and 9,000 square feet of retail under construction.
Finished projects include the Fremont Building, Capitol Park Homes, lofts at 1801 L Street, Q19 apartments and much more. His apartment building on the Q Street site of The Sacramento Bee’s old parking garage will be the city’s biggest.
And he’s been deeply involved with the special assessment districts that pay for a variety of Downtown amenities and services, making it impossible to walk 100 yards with Kolokotronis and not be stopped by well-wishers, friends, colleagues and people who seem to love the guy and his big-hearted personality.
His SKK Developments has other big projects in the works. While Kolokotronis is quick to credit city planners and fellow developers, such as Michael Heller and Mark Friedman for their positive impact on Downtown, no one has done more to build the housing needed to serve people and attract restaurants and other commerce.
Go Downtown on just about any night and you’ll find people enjoying the amenities, walking around, socializing, spending money and giving the city a sense of place it didn’t always have. It’s a far cry from the time Kolokotronis first brought his future wife to Sacramento after proposing to her in 1986. When she asked where Downtown was after a trip to Natomas, he told her, “We just passed it.”
For Kolokotronis, Downtown started on its current revival in the early 2000s, when the state built its massive East End office complex near the Capitol. The monolithic project was a missed opportunity to bring a more pedestrian-scaled ambience to the core. But by collecting thousands of state workers in one general area and getting rid of many run-down buildings, Downtown began its transformation.
The outgoing developer has been riding this latest wave for more than a few years and shows no signs of slowing down. His good fortune has been the city’s good fortune as well.
Gary Delsohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento