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Housing projects boom

The Basin Street development, a 35.7-acre site, is set to feature a 120-room hotel, 30,000 square feet of retail space with approximately 100 apartment units, 60,000 square feet of office space, 40 town homes and 135 single-family homes.

By John O'Hara/For the Argus-Courier
Published: Monday, November 26, 2012 at 8:25 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 at 8:25 a.m.

A number of large-scale residential or mixed-use developments are set to come before the newly elected City Council for review in 2013.

One reason for the sudden surge in projects seems to be the city's recent decision to lower development impact fees, which several developers said encouraged them to move forward.

Among the projects are a 300-unit apartment complex that has been in the pipeline for several years, a 120-room hotel adjacent to the Petaluma River, and a $65 million waterfront development north of Petaluma's downtown.

In addition, a developer filed an application with the city for a 140-unit apartment complex on Maria Drive just last month and Walgreens has plans for a new store at the corner of North McDowell Boulevard and Lynch Creek Way, adjacent to the recently approved home improvement site.

“These projects aren't on the same scale as a Deer Creek or a Regency,” said Deputy Planning manager Heather Hines, referring to the Friedman's and Target shopping centers that were recently approved. “But there is certainly going to be a lot of activity coming up for review in the near future.”

The largest project set for formal review in 2013 is the Basin Street riverside property next to the Petaluma River west of Highway 101, which features a 120-room hotel, 30,000 square feet of retail space with approximately 100 apartment units, 60,000 square feet of office space, 40 town homes and 135 single-family homes. The 35.7-acre parcel is also slated to have 6.5 acres of park space and a boathouse for the Petaluma Small Craft Center Coalition.

When the project was first proposed, a major concern was that the site only had one access road, Caulfield Lane. Paul Andronico, senior vice president for Basin Street Properties, said that Caulfield Lane became a major concern for the fire marshal, who worried about the ability of emergency vehicles to access the site. Andronico said that the developers have worked hard to come up with solutions to address site accessibility concerns, including widening the road and building additional emergency vehicle access points to the property.

“We've worked extensively with city staff and an outside fire consultant to create solutions,” Andronico said. He added that Basin Street's formal application has been mostly completed and that the company expects the project to go before the City Council for review sometime in early 2013.

Andronico said that because his group has tried to keep the project consistent with the city's general plan guidelines for mixed-use developments, he does not believe at this time that an environmental review will be required. He added that Basin Street hopes to break ground in 2014, if all goes according to plan.

The city's recent decision to lower building impact fees, Andronico said, has made their project much more likely to get financing. In addition, most City Council members have expressed a desire to see new hotels in Petaluma, as a way for the city's strapped general fund budget to receive a boost in the form of hotel tax revenue, and many speculate that the council's new, business-friendly majority will be receptive to the project.

Another development in the works is the North River Landing project, a $65 million housing and retail development approved in 2009 along the waterfront north of downtown. Plans include an 80-unit assisted living facility, 114 apartment units and 22,500 square feet of commercial, retail and parking space. The site, situated between Petaluma Boulevard North and the Petaluma River just south of the Lakeville Street intersection, was home to three historic buildings.

Developer Chris McCarthy said that since the city lowered building impact fees, a slew of investors have stepped forward, making the project almost fully funded. He said he's hopeful that the site can break ground in the spring of 2014.

Another large development in Petaluma called Sid Commons, a 100-plus apartment complex proposed by The Acclaim Companies, is currently in the process of having its environmental impact report completed, according to Hines. The Acclaim Companies have owned the 18-acre parcel of land in Northwest Petaluma — at the end of Graylawn Avenue between the Petaluma River and Highway 101 — for more than 30 years. The project was first proposed in 2003 and, according to developer Gary Johnson, has had to overcome many development hurdles, including property considerations required for train crossings, the rail line, the Petaluma River and wetlands.

“But we feel that the time is right to move ahead on the project,” said Johnson, adding, “Lowering impact fees is going to help us finish the project. It also encourages quality developers to come to Petaluma.”

One major concern with the Sid Commons project has been traffic mitigation, since Graylawn Avenue is currently the only road to the site and the city requires two points of access to a project of this size. Johnson said that because the project has downsized and will only include roughly 100 apartments, he didn't believe that only having one road to access the property would be an issue moving forward.

Another major housing development garnering attention is the Davidon project on the west side outskirts of town, a 93-home development sitting on a 58-acre parcel of land near Helen Putnam Park. Hines said the EIR for that project is almost complete and should come before council soon after the new year.

(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at janelle.wetzstein@arguscourier.com)

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