Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Meet the woman behind the largest revenue-generating district in Citrus Heights

Kathilynn Carpenter has served as executive director of Sunrise MarketPlace since its formation 20 years ago. // CH Sentinel

By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Kathilynn Carpenter has served as executive director for the improvement district representing 400-plus businesses in Sunrise Boulevard-Greenback Lane commercial corridor since 1999.

The business district, known as the Sunrise MarketPlace (SMP), was formed as a Property and Business Improvement District (PBID) in 1999 and is tasked with representing the interests of member businesses and driving economic vitality.

“It’s been an amazing 20-year journey,” said Carpenter, 60, during a recent interview with The Sentinel at her office in Sunrise Mall, which has wall decor filled with two decades of memories of outdoor concerts, tennis tournaments and special events.

Hired by the Sunrise MarketPlace 20 years ago, Carpenter helped oversee the formation of the district and the comprehensive branding and overall transformation of the business corridor that is seen by the public today — including new gateway signs, banner pylons and light pole signage throughout the district.

In all, Carpenter oversees four major shopping plazas within the SMP, including Citrus Town Center, located on the corner of Greenback Lane and Sunrise Boulevard; Marketplace at Birdcage, Sunrise Mall and Sunrise Village, located at the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Madison Avenue.

“Whatever question they may have, from physical security, homeless issues, general police relations, maintenance or safety issues, all they have to do is call or email, and we’ll be right on it,” she said. “It’s a lot of ground to cover.”

Over the past 20 years, Sunrise Boulevard and the district’s surrounding streets have been transformed with new distinctive signage, vibrant banners, and festive seasonal holiday decor. SMP also worked with the city to make median improvements along Sunrise Boulevard which included the addition of 80 new palm trees and colorful flowers.

Carpenter, who is seen as the public face of SMP, describes her role as executive director as the “go-to” person for day-to-day business concerns of the district members.

“Much of my work as executive director still involves face-to-face or telephone contact with each of the 450 businesses and 80 property owners within the SMP business corridor,” she told The Sentinel.

Businesses in the Sunrise MarketPlace district generate a combined total of nearly half-a-billion dollars in sales revenue annually, Carpenter said.

About the PBID
The PBID was renewed by property owners and approved by the City of Citrus Heights in 2004, 2009, and 2014 in accordance with the Property and Business Law of 1994. The PBID’s current term expires on Dec. 31, 2021.

The district begins its renewal process this year, according to its 2018 annual report. The property tax assessment district comes up for renewal in 2020.

“We’re working now on the administrative and legal requirements to accomplish that,” said Carpenter. “The mission of the PBID remains as it was when it was first founded, to drive the economic vitality of the district.”

Property owners receive an invoice with their property tax bill and have the option to pass this cost onto their tenants, Carpenter said. The business improvement district is operated by a nonprofit company, Sunrise MarketPlace, Inc., that maintains an office and staff in Sunrise Mall overseen by Carpenter.

Board decisions are made by its board of directors and committees, and are executed by staff members. Current SMP board members include chair Travis Kimball, Quick Quack Car Wash; vice chair Andrew Gianulias, Greenback Associates; and treasurer Don Tollefson, Batteries + Bulbs.

SMP activities
In 2018, Carpenter oversaw a $1.31 million budget for district operations, which it used to support economic development, advocacy, operations and marketing and special events activities. A $300,000 grant for construction of a 2,500-seat outdoor stadium was returned, according to its 2018 annual report, due to Sunrise Mall transition and ownership issues.

From 2018: Plans dissolve for new pop-up stadium at Sunrise Mall

“It was a disappointment to see the end of these very popular events, but as a district, we were able to evolve and move on,” she said.

SMP rolled out several events and promotions throughout 2019 to celebrate its 20th anniversary, including an inaugural beer festival, Brews in the Burbs, and gift card promotions.

“The ‘Brews in the Burbs’ event, was quite successful, and we look forward to hosting it again,” Carpenter said. “We’re also working with SMUD to do a transformer art wrap project, creating colorful art displays where outside power transformers are placed.”

Commercial vacancies and future changes
Carpenter said SMP acknowledges the public’s concern about the number of commercial vacancies within the district and prefers to take “a long-range view.”

“The city itself is recovering from the effects of the recent economic downturn, but it will take time,” she said. Carpenter said the city’s support for the redevelopment of Sunrise Mall for new purposes is welcome and needed.

Related: City takes next step towards major redevelopment of Sunrise Mall

“Public preferences genuinely have changed, and new businesses, will in time, take the place of those that have left,” she said. “There will also be some considerable opportunity for new consumer traffic in the years ahead when the Mitchell Farms subdivision is completed.”

Related: Massive housing project in Citrus Heights sold to new developer

Carpenter has worked with business improvement districts since 1996. She spent 16 years in hotel sales and marketing experience in the resort and gaming industry in Reno, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Hawaii. She also served as vice president for marketing for the Fremont Street Experience, a redevelopment project in Las Vegas, which created a $70 million light and sound show canopy and pedestrian mall. 

When some professionals are ready to retire after 20 years, Carpenter said she finds her day-to-day work both creative and satisfying and she’s not ready to consider that option just yet.

It’s the creative side of special events planning, which is a special role Carpenter said through the years she never tires of.

“I enjoy that critical part of my responsibilities, and the planning of seasonal events, that SMP has become known for through the years,” Carpenter said, noting plans in the works for the district’s third annual Magical Moments holiday program.

Magical Moments features a series of interactive family-friendly, pop-up holiday themed experiences throughout the district, which include a laser light show in the Lowe’s parking lot, Victorian Holiday at Marketplace at Birdcage, Winterfest at Sunrise Village and a performance of the Nutcracker by the Sacramento Civic Ballet at Sunrise Mall.

“We’re always applying the lessons which we have learned, and I hope to make this year’s event bigger and better,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter, who resides in Fair Oaks near the border of Citrus Heights, received a B.A. degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno. She is a past board member and past chair of the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce. She also received the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s award in 2017 and the 2002 Businessperson of the Year. 

In addition to her role with Sunrise MarketPlace, Carpenter was instrumental in forming the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance Resource Team five years ago in an effort to find more long-term solutions for homelessness. She has served as its chairperson ever since. 

“I enjoy being a part of the Citrus Heights community and helping to make a difference here,” she said.

Carpenter has one daughter, Hannah, who lives in Santa Cruz. She has also raised and fostered many Great Danes over the years, with her current brood including one Great Dane, two Chihuahuas and one cat.

This story was made possible by The Sentinel’s paid subscribers. If you would like to help make more local news coverage possible, please consider a subscription for just $4/mo.

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)