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A slow and painful wait for a downtown

By: Irene Hilsendager
August 16, 2019

Having attended a Noon Time luncheon last week and requesting an up-to-date from Jes Slavik-Laulima Co-founder, on the State Ave. project. We are going to press and still no word on the development.

There may be a risk for the City of Rohnert Park on this proposal for the downtown district. Darrin Jenkins, RP City Manager said it was more important that the city gets the downtown right rather than quickly. Since the old State Farm property was sold in Dec. of 2017 and now it’s Aug. of 2019, hopefully the city is getting it right as it’s certainly not quickly.

We see weeds, mounds of dirt, piles of broken cement and the black plastic tarps certainly are unsightly. The trees are long gone, and homeless camps keep building up at the State Farm Dr. gates. 

Some of the so-called approved plan is supposed to consist of 140,000 sq. feet of retail space and 130,000 sq. feet of offices distributed within 15 buildings ranging from one to three stories and another 156-room hotel that will sit partially vacant like all of the others in town. The main space will be called Station Square, a community plaza that is meant to support events and community gatherings. A space for non-profits to meet and have fundraisers, I hope?

Slavik announced that the underground utilities and site has to be rebuilt increasing the budget tremendously. He also says there are many hurdles facing them with problems arising from new tariffs, materials and labor have increased the costs and sub-contractors are working in other areas and it seems none have been assigned to this project.  Costs have to be reduced but have to keep the quality good, how about great?

The grounds at Station Ave. is not level so the mounds of dirt lying amid the field will be used for leveling and the cement piles will be ground up and used else-where.

Jes says a hotel has a spot already and a 10,000 square foot brewery is already procured. Why another brewery? Isn’t a mid-priced department store needed in town? Proms and homecomings need fancy duds, how about a nice white table clothed restaurant so residents don’t have to drive to Petaluma or Santa Rosa for a nice evening. Pizza places do not impress out of town guests.

If the SMART train brings passengers to Station Ave., wouldn’t it be nice to browse in a great gift, book and card shop?

Yes, a downtown is needed, and tax money should stay in Rohnert Park but at this rate with the economy not looking so great and another holiday season coming up, so again residents will be taking their money out of town.

Update-as of Tuesday evening at the Rohnert Park Council meeting, officials with Laulima Development, the firm that owns the state farm property, announced that there will be major delay in building a downtown, called Station Avenue. As mentioned before, the developer blamed the rising costs of labor and materials.

David Bouquillon, Laulima’s managing partner, said they would continue to work with the city to come up with cost-saving measures to build up the development as soon as possible. None of the emails or telephone messages that were sent to Laulima’s were ever returned to the Community Voice newsroom.