19 Mar Developer airs plans for Petaluma downtown SMART station
A global real estate developer held its first community outreach forum last week to present a proposal for a multi-story development project in downtown Petaluma, easily one of the largest residential complexes currently in the city’s pipeline.
Texas-based development firm Hines Interests Limited Partnership presented details of the proposed five-story residential complex in partnership with Petaluma development advocacy group Know Before You Grow at the Petaluma Library last Wednesday, answering questions and collecting feedback in what was the most thorough public look at the project to date.
The Petaluma Station project, also called the Downtown Station project, is situated behind the downtown SMART station between D and East Washington streets and is to include two buildings with a total of 405 residential units. Each building would contain a small commercial space and two on-site parking structures, as well as a 1/2-acre public park and pedestrian walkway between the two buildings, connected to Copeland Street.
Petaluma Planning Manager Heather Hines, who has no relation to the developer, said the project is expected to be the city’s largest apartment complex.
The project was first introduced at the Jan. 28 city council meeting, linked to the complex land-purchase agreement involving the Petaluma Station project site, which is currently owned by Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit. As part of the agreement, the rail agency is to sell the undeveloped parcel, securing funds toward construction of Petaluma’s second station and opening up the barren stretch to development.
“We’re still very much in the middle of this, but we want to go ahead and explain where we’re going and what we’re doing so that it’s pretty clear,” said Hines Senior Managing Director Paul Paradis. “Please understand that we love feedback, and that we are continuing to massage and adjust the design.”
Paradis said he anticipates construction will begin early 2021, estimating it will take two years to complete. However, design plans are not yet finalized and the developers have not yet submitted an application to the city, which Paradis said he’s aiming to do in about a month.
The city’s planning department suggested Hines hold the forum, encouraging community involvement on what is to be the second development next to a SMART station in the city after Corona Station, which stirred significant protest from Know Before You Grow members and dozens of other community members over its single-family design.
“That is seriously cool, we are now part of the process,” said Know Before You Grow founder Dave Alden. “But it also puts a burden on us, we now need to act like adults, understand the rules of planning, understand the pressure everyone is under, provide good commentary and take a part in the process going forward.”
Community concerns focused largely on the project’s impact on traffic congestion and parking availability, as well as the frustration over the switch from a bisecting road originally proposed to run the length of the complex to connect Copeland Street to the downtown SMART parking lot.
Paradis said SMART did not express interest in opening up access to the proposed road, leading Hines project designers to instead create the pedestrian pathway in its place. SMART did not respond to requests for comment over the proposed third access point to its parking lot, however, Paradis said Hines is choosing to keep that element of the design flexible should a deal with the rail agency become feasible in the future.
Scheduled Know Before You Grow meetings have either been canceled or postponed over the next several weeks due to the current public health emergency from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Postponed meetings include a forum on the future uses of the Petaluma Fairgrounds, as well as a meeting to discuss a transit-oriented development in nearby Rohnert Park.
(Contact Kathryn Palmer at [email protected], on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)