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Big changes to big project in Rohnert Park

By: Josh Rheinhart
October 12, 2018

Progress on the Station Avenue Development marched forward Tuesday when the Rohnert Park City Council met to review the planning commission’s recent alterations to the future downtown section. 

Most dramatic of the proposed changes is a reduction to the originally planned five story mixed-use set of buildings that formed the development’s center. The reduction would bring the buildings down to two stories, raise the ceilings on the office and commercial space and move the residential area to a large apartment block. The changes add an additional 10,000 square feet of office and 10,000 square feet of retail. 

“There’s a shift with the way new office buildings are built, with open floor plans and taller ceilings,” said Jeff Beiswenger, Rohnert Park planning manager. “This would fit more in the mode of what new companies are looking for. That’s the market the developer is trying to hit.”

The Station Avenue Development is the proposed replacement for the now abandoned State Farm Insurance property located at the junction between the Rohnert Park Expressway and State Farm Dr. It’s a greatly desired spot thanks to the new SMART station that’s right next door, and much of the Rohnert Park City Council hopes that the development will become the new ‘place-to-be’ in Rohnert Park. 

“Rohnert Park is an amazing place to raise your children and live,” Council member Gina Belforte said. “The one thing it has always missed is this little ‘heart’. The one place where we could all go--where the community could get together and sit at a brew-pub with friends or shop. We were always leaving to go do that.”

At the moment the Station Avenue development proposes to add both a beer garden and a four story hotel, and of course that’s not even mentioning the extra space for restaurants, boutiques and whatever else decides to make its home here in Rohnert Park. 

That’s all pretty big news for a city where the closest thing to a downtown was the local Safeway. 

“There’s a real history here and we’re now coming to a point where that history is about to be realized,” Council member Jake Mackenzie said. “For the citizens of Rohnert Park if there was one thing we agreed upon it was that there needed to be a central focus for the city. You don’t have to be a great urban planner to recognize where the central focus should be.”

It must be the season for development, because the Rohnert Park City Council also reviewed at that same meeting a proposed high density housing project between Costco and Scandia in west Rohnert Park. The 12.7 acre Redwood Crossing development hopes to add upwards of 156 apartment units to the city. 

It was affordable housing that proved to be the sticking point for the Redwood Crossing development, however. Under the current proposal, the developer would pay a $3,230 affordable housing fee for every 1,000 square feet of residential space. That would mean that the city of Rohnert Park should collect just over $500,000 in affordable housing fees for the entire complex. 

That’s not good enough according to Council member Belforte. 

“Giving a general plan amendment is a gift. It’s a big gift,” Belforte said. “To ask for 15 percent affordable housing in an area where we’re seeing our family members and our children not be able to live in the home town they grew up in. It’s a problem. We want our families to stay here. The way to do that is with affordable housing.” 

The Rohnert Park City Council kicked the negotiations back to the developer with instructions to ‘do better’.