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Large mixed-use project proposed for Rohnert Park State Farm site

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The sprawling former State Farm Insurance office campus in the middle of Rohnert Park has been sold to a national developer of large mixed-use communities, kindling hopes for an invigorated city center.

The campus at State Farm Drive and Rohnert Park Expressway, empty since the company moved out in mid-2011, was purchased by Irvine-based Suncal Cos. on Dec. 24.

The sale price was not disclosed, but the deal involved $30 million in financing arranged through New York-based Catlin U.S. Investment Holdings, according to the Sonoma County Recorder’s Office.

The former State Farm Insurance campus in Rohnert Park on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A Southern California-based developer has purchased the property. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

The former State Farm Insurance campus in Rohnert Park on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A Southern California-based developer has purchased the property. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

The development instantly puts a high-profile political and planning issue on the city’s table.

“It’s going to be a crucial step in the next year, what that’s turned into,” said Mayor Joe Callinan.

SunCal officials said single-family residences, both detached houses and townhomes, and retail spaces are envisioned, and that the development will link closely with the SMART commuter rail station that is to be built adjacent to the property.

“We want to take advantage of the train station and help enable a town center-downtown area that our development will be part of,” said Joe Guerra, who manages SunCal’s Northern California acquisitions.

He said a stand of redwoods at the northwest corner of the property, where residents now relax and picnic, will be preserved.

The site is key to ongoing plans to redevelop 282 acres in the core of a city that many see as lacking a definable center. Meetings are underway to chart the future of what is termed the Priority Development Area stretching from Highway 101 on the east to the railroad tracks bordering the State Farm site and to Alicia Drive on the south.

“In the 50-year history of Rohnert Park there was always this desire that there would a place of central focus, a downtown,” Councilman Jake Mackenzie said.

“We’re starting to move away from it being a possibility and toward it becoming a reality,” he said.

“We still don’t have that critical mass of people living in the downtown,” he said. “Clearly what we want to have is the transit hub at the SMART station, a development on the State Farm property that will have people and commercial activities and I would say transform that area.”

But there has been no articulated consensus about what that transformation will look like and what role the State Farm site will play in it.

“We have some council members who think that’s going to be turned into a grand downtown. Rohnert Park has never had a grand downtown and that’s not going to be it,” said Callinan.

Like Mackenzie, though, — and also Guerra — Callinan suggested that the 4-year-old City Center Plaza and the public library, north of the Expressway, could be tied into whatever goes in at the State Farm property.

Guerra said SunCal intends to meet with city staff within two weeks to move forward with an environmental impact report and required amendments to the city’s general plan.

“Before anybody sees earth moving, you’re probably talking 24 months,” he said.

SunCal has projects across the country, from Washington to Georgia to Dublin, where the company is developing 2,000 homes, a school, parks and shops on 189 acres.

(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.)





2 Responses to “Large mixed-use project proposed for Rohnert Park State Farm site”

  1. brown act jack says:

    by golly,Molly, the area has discovered a new source of water for all of these large developments, I guess

    and they have discovered a new way to treat the sewage from the new population.

    Or is it that they just need the jobs and taxes that can be part of the reasoning for these approvals.

    well, I guess we just have to use less water, and flush less, in order that we get new expensive houses next to the Casino in easy walking distance to enable the Casino to take more money from the public.

    not to worry, SCP will expand into water and sewage services to correct the problems.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  2. James Bennett says:

    Yeah, there defidently hasn’t been any;
    “articulated consensus” regarding Smart Growth.
    It would be bad enough if it was a brand of taxation without representation (like everything else these days), if we didn’t subsidize it.

    But it’s much worse.

    The memo the serfs haven’t gotten yet (because none was sent out), is that these gulags are to ultimately REPLACE private property ownership.

    Treasonous public officials yearn for the grant (bribe) money and a place in the government that is to replace our representative government.

    Don’t remember voting on any of this life changing tyranny.

    Understand UN Agenda 21, and understand all the ‘change’ this year.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 5

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