It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick, but Tues., Nov. 13, the Rohnert Park City Council unanimously approved the Station Avenue Project.
Station Avenue is the future downtown section of Rohnert Park that will take the place of the State Farm property located on the corner of State Farm Drive and the Rohnert Park Expressway.
“Rohnert Park is a fabulous place to raise your children. The one thing it has missed is a heart,” Councilmember Gina Belforte said. “What a heart does is it joins everything together. A heart is the seat of emotion. Many times when people want to have a nice birthday, or an anniversary, or a baby-shower they go someplace else. They don’t have to do that anymore.”
Laulima Development is in charge of the 32-acre project and their planned construction for the area next to the Smart Rail Station is nothing if not ambitious. It includes 460 residential units, 270 thousand square feet of office and retail space and a brew-pub of all things. On top of all that, there’s also going to be a 156 room upscale hotel complete with matching parking garage.
That scale of a project would bring change to any community and Rohnert Park is certainly no exception. The recent alteration to building codes in the newly approved downtown section creates a ‘walkable neighborhood’ rule, which limits the size of new city blocks to that which people may reasonably transverse on foot. This will apply across the board to any future development or significant remodel in the downtown area.
And that means smaller pretty much everything, with the exception of buildings. By shrinking the maximum block size the city council hopes to create a more cohesive feel for the new downtown section. They want walking and biking to be people’s preferred choice for getting around.
This desire factored into the council’s decision to prohibit drive-through outlets in the downtown area. They went so far as to deny a petition by Argonaut Construction, new owners of the Raley’s Shopping Center, to allow them to include a drive-through coffee house in a future, potential remodel.
It was not a unanimous decision. Vice Mayor, Joseph Callinan, provided the sole dissenting vote to the change in ordinance.
“I just feel like we’ve put Argonaut Construction, a new investor, into a bit of a pickle,” Callinan said. “I know we want our downtown and I know we think we’re doing what’s best, but they may not even renovate those buildings now. They may just sit like that. Shame on us for not even considering that.”
Everything told, Rohnert Park stands to pull in over $730,000 a year in revenue from the Station Avenue development once it’s up and running. Most of this number comes from the sales tax generated by the property’s commercial units, though a significant portion will stem from the upscale hotel. The city will not be on the hook for maintenance and improvements of the property’s pipes nor its parking garage. Those are the developer’s responsibility.
Rohnert Park’s financial responsibility revolves mostly around the $700,000 in park improvements that the project requires. That money will buy roughly 1.1 acres of new park lands and include two new dog parks and the beautification of the area lining Commerce Blvd and the Rohnert Park Expressway.
“When State Farm went out, what a loss we thought it was for the city. But with Laulima coming in, what a wonderful opportunity we got from that. Who ever thought that we would ever have such a project in our downtown?” Rohnert Park Mayor, Pam Stafford, said. “People don’t realize how much work has gone into this in a year. This is a huge project to have come to this point in a year.
Laulima Development estimates that the new downtown section will be completed in late 2020.