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Santa Rosa council approves scaled back Museum on the Square project

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Though disappointed to see the top five stories disappear, Santa Rosa City Council members unanimously supported a scaled back version of the Museum on the Square project Tuesday.

The council agreed to sell the windowless former AT&T building downtown to developer Hugh Futrell even though he is no longer proposing to turn it into a 10-story tower topped by 43 apartments.

A revised proposal for the site of the former AT&T building lops five stories of residences off the top. (TLCD Architecture)

A revised proposal for the site of the former AT&T building lops five stories of residences off the top. (TLCD Architecture)

Instead, Futrell says he’ll turn the concrete structure into a glass-clad building with museum and restaurant space on the first floor and four stories of office space above.

Councilwoman Julie Combs said she was “experiencing a tremendous sense of loss” from the elimination of the residential units, which she said could have brought “excitement and vibrancy” to the downtown. Nevertheless she said the smaller project would go a long way toward improving that area of Courthouse Square.

“I think this is one of those instances when we don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Combs said.

Futrell explained that he needed to simplify the project to get it financed, purchased and under construction by August to ensure his anchor tenants can occupy the building by next year.

Council members praised Futrell for his commitment to downtown and his tenacity for the sticking with the project despite many hurdles. The building was purchased by the city’s redevelopment agency in 2007 and was in the process of being sold to Futrell and his partners when the state eliminated its 425 redevelopment agencies. The resulting bureaucratic morass has bogged down the project ever since.

“To have the state turn around and kick him in the butt the way it did, it amazing that he’s still involved,” Councilman Jake Ours said.

The financing for the residential component of the project was complex and was also impacted by the federal sequestration affecting the timing of special tax credits for such infill projects, Futrell said.

The amended agreement calls for Futrell to close escrow by the end of August. The new sale price will be based on a new appraisal that is underway. The proceeds will not go directly to the city, but will instead be distributed among various taxing agencies in the area, including schools and other districts.

Even though it won’t build housing, the project will spur demand for housing downtown, Futrell said.

“We need both jobs and housing. But jobs are the fundamental determinant of housing demand,” Futrell said.

The long vacant building is considered by many to be an eyesore and a major impediment to energizing the downtown. “We need to make that corner vibrant. That corner has been hamstringing our ability to revitalize Courthouse Square for how many years?” Councilman Gary Wysocky said.

City staff estimate the revised project could create 600 jobs and generate $60 million of annual economic activity for the city. Instead of $26 million, the new project will cost $16.5 million.

Mayor Scott Bartley praised Futrell for his personal investment in the project and supported the goal of keeping good-paying jobs downtown. But he said he worried that time was running out for the project.

“I hate to say it, this is sort of a hail Mary attempt to save this,” Bartley said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater





5 Responses to “Santa Rosa council approves scaled back Museum on the Square project”

  1. James Bennett says:

    Richard: the One Bay Area Plan will reduce the entire Bay Area to a Redevelopment Area on steroids. Along with SB 1 waiting in the wings to coincide with this tyranny that brings back eminent domain and tax increment financing.

    This will crash the free market and property rights in a way we’ve never seen.

    Truthful stories have been submitted to the PD for Close to Home which they refuse to print.

    Go to Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 .com or The North Bay Independent.org

  2. RICHARD says:

    “To have the state turn around and kick him in the butt the way it did, it amazing that he’s still involved,” Councilman Jake Ours said.

    The state did not kick him in the butt. But redevelopment has kicked the tax payers in the head and butt. No buts about it. Mr Ours agreed to sell Mr Futrell the AT&T building for about a million dollars less than the city [ tax payers ] paid for it.

    Redevelopment was tax payer abuse, that is why we worked to reform it. The governor decided the best way to reform it was to elimination it. So be it.

  3. RICHARD says:

    “We need to make that corner vibrant. That corner has been hamstringing our ability to revitalize Courthouse Square for how many years?” Councilman Gary Wysocky said.

    The problem with that corner is traffic congestion and a narrow sidewalk. Santa Rosa downtown was built on the cheep and it shows.

    Old Courthouse Square redevelopment is a boondoggle. The city appropriated more than a half million dollars for a partial relandscaping plan of this less than two acre site. The total project is expected to cost more than 10 million dollars, our tax dollars.

    Not a good use of our taxes.

  4. Janet Wood says:

    A museum, yet no $ for street lights! Is neighborhood safety no longer relevant? What’s wrong with these decision makers priorities….Heaven help us all with the decision making skills they exhibit.

  5. James Bennett says:

    Yeah, Julie, we’re feeling a tremendous sense of loss too.

    A sense of loss for our civil liberties, property rights, small business rights, our financial abundance, a loss of representation from our public officials. A loss of money from the constant redundant taxation. A loss of our freedoms.

    See, the more Smart Growth these traitors install, the more grant money they get, the they approve, the better they look to their globalist masters.

    The more their future in this hijacked government is ‘sustainable’.