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Santa Rosa’s ‘Museum on the Square’ facing another setback

The proposed Museum on the Square.

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The plan to turn a city-owned eyesore into a mixed-use downtown tower faces yet another setback.

The Museum on the Square project proposed for the long-vacant former AT&T building on Old Courthouse Square will need another six-month extension from the city to give the much-anticipated deal more time to close escrow.

If approved by the City Council, it would be the third extension granted for the $1.9 million sale agreement between the city and the project’s developer, The Hugh Futrell Corp.

The sale had been on track to close in April, but questions raised by the title company have held up financing for the project, David Gouin, the city’s director of economic development and housing, told the City Council on Thursday.

The city’s redevelopment agency purchased the five-story concrete structure in 2007 for $3 million with an eye toward finding a developer to revitalize the space.

The board in 2010 selected a development team headed by Futrell, which proposed transforming the windowless bunker into a 10-story glass-clad tower with space for the Sonoma County Museum and a restaurant on the first floor, four stories for offices, and five new floors of luxury apartments.

Gouin already granted two six month-extensions to allow the project to work through other hiccups. One involved whether to allow future residents of the building to drive through the city’s transit mall to access parking. That request was eventually granted by the city council.

The latest extension granted the project until June 30 to close escrow.

But the Feb. 1 elimination of the city’s redevelopment agency created a wrinkle that has further held up the sale. At that point, ownership of the building was transferred to the successor agency of the redevelopment agency, the Santa Rosa City Council.

A seven-member oversight board has been set up to review the debts and, if appropriate, dispose of former redevelopment agency assets and disperse the funds to other taxing entities. The board has taken the position that the sale of the building is a valid contract that must be honored.

The state Department of Finance, however, has ultimate say over which contracts are valid.

The title company handling the sale needed some clarification about who exactly has the authority to sell the building, Gouin said.

“They just wanted assurance that the transaction would be valid under the law once the process ran its course,” Gouin said.

City Attorney Caroline Fowler said her office has been in touch with attorneys for the title company, whom she characterized as “very skittish because of the uncertainty with redevelopment.”

The city expects to hear back from the state Department of Finance soon about whether the various contracts and debts of the former redevelopment agency are valid.

City officials have expressed confidence the sale contract is valid because it predates any discussion of the dissolution of redevelopment. Gouin told the council he is confident the project will get the green light.

“I believe it will happen this year,” he said.

Futrell said the title insurance questions did cause a delay, but the issue has been resolved. Other aspects of the project remain on track, including securing signed leases from major tenants. The company is “deep into financial review with lenders” and expects construction to begin in the fall, Futrell said.





8 Responses to “Santa Rosa’s ‘Museum on the Square’ facing another setback”

  1. RICHARD says:

    What a waste of a harden structure. It was built to withstand an atomic bomb blast.

    Turning a concrete cube into a glass wall building will have a greater risk of failure than the usual conversion project. Remember the teen center, Chops? City, tax payers, will probably bail this project out.

    An easier conversion would be into storage building for art, documents ect. It would add less traffic to an already over burdened downtown.

    STOP THIS NONSENSE, PLEASE.

  2. Great Ideas says:

    This building would make a wonderful homeless shelter and drug rehab center. And so close to the action with the bus terminal, city hall and the $26 million dollar creek path.

  3. Steveguy says:

    Luxury condos at the Transit Mall ? Watch your step at the entry.

    Maybe the highest paid of the Administrators and Managers of the City of Santa Rosa should be REQUIRED to live there. They REQUIRE us to to their bidding, like paper bag bans, let’s turn the table !

  4. Jim Bennett says:

    Charade.

    Hugh Futrell is on their short list of ‘chosen ones’.
    Something tells me they’ll get over their…’set backs’.

  5. RICHARD says:

    One hears the title company demanded special guarantees from the city, meaning the tax payers.

    Who is paying for the additional city staff time ?

    Not one more penny for this project from the public purse.

  6. Steve Klausner says:

    What’s wrong with this picture…5 stories of luxury condos next to the bus terminal in downtown Santa Rosa (where the sidewalk is rolled at 10pm).

    This little city want’s create a transit village? Walk across the street, see who’s standing in the dark and the rain waiting for a bus…build housing for them.

  7. Canthisbe says:

    “The title company handling the sale needed some clarification about who exactly has the authority to sell the building, Gouin said.

    “They just wanted assurance that the transaction would be valid under the law once the process ran its course,” Gouin said.

    City Attorney Caroline Fowler said her office has been in touch with attorneys for the title company, whom she characterized as “very skittish because of the uncertainty with redevelopment.”

    “Futrell said the title insurance questions did cause a delay, but the issue has been resolved”.

    Would a call to the title insurance company to get its position be helpful?

    Either the title insurance problem has been taken care of or it has not and who would know better than the title insurance company?

  8. RICHARD says:

    This project is not only a bad idea it is unsafe.

    SANTA ROSA CITY COUNCIL AGENDA DECEMBER 14, 2010: “It is recommended … that the Council either a) retain the existing access easement and original Museum on the Square access…. or b) direct staff to pursue modifications of the access easement allowing private vehicles to have ingress and egress to the Museum on the Square from within the Transit Mall …”.

    From the easement: “d. In order to provide for the safe and expeditious movement of public transit vehicles in the vicinity of said mall, the public necessity and convenience require that GRANTEE limit the use of said potion of Second Street by passenger vehicles.” May 29, 1986 City of Santa Rosa

    However the Council granted access from within the Transit Mall.

    Allowing private vehicles is likely to get people injured or killed. There will be conflicts with baby strollers, wheel chairs, pedestrians, and moving buses. The private vehicles will turn across bus boarding area and pedestrian paths. Imagine driving between two buses to cross a sidewalk.

    This is a bad project.