Station Avenue, Rohnert Park’s new downtown, is in the works and the final approval for the project development will be voted on early November by the city council of Rohnert Park. While many anxiously wait for the new downtown area, there is still some work to be done by Laulima Development in order to complete the project.
Nonetheless, this project is something that is supposed to benefit both students and residents of Rohnert Park. “There are a lot of things that make a great University Downtown,” David Bouquillon, president of Laulima Developments said, “whether it’s feeling the palpable vibe of an alma mater, having tons to do, or the fact that your university town is a great place to stay after you’ve graduated. The opportunity exist to be considered along other cool college downtowns like Palo Alto, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Claremont, Chico and Santa Barbara, to name a few.”
He also noted that the addition of the SMART train allows people to jump north to Healdsburg or south to the Larkspur ferry for a boat ride into San Francisco. “Not many college students have that type of option available,” he said.
Building such a large and multipurpose space will potentially present certain challenges for both the city and the developer. Bouquillon explained, “As with many Bay Area, large scale construction projects, controlling costs as a developer causes potential challenges. Last year’s wildfires were devastating to many people and their families where the rebuilding process puts strains on the available labor from the building trades.” The construction company contracted to build downtown planned for these issues early on.
The developer is confident that the project will overcome these challenges, saying, “We’ve been planning this development for over a year and we’ve put our most forward thinking into every detail. We’re confident with an early November approval vote by the City Council we can meet our Fall 2020 grand opening.”
City council member Jake Mackenzie said that, “a good working relationship,” exists between the developer and the city of Rohnert Park.
In addition, Bouquillon said, “Collectively, our team has many years of experience working with other California cities.” The developers and the city of Rohnert Park have been collaborating closely on this project.
“This project is expected to be done by the year 2020,” Bouquillon said “We anticipate demolition of the exiting 300,000-square-foot vacant building to begin shortly after the formal city council vote anticipated for early November.”
The construction will begin shortly after they get the correct permits as Mackenzie said the only two things that the developer still needs are “planning commission and city council approvals.” Laulima Development is confident they will attain these permits
Councilmember Mackenzie mentioned that, “Sonoma State did not have a central role. I don’t believe, but do not know, if they have commented on earlier versions of Laulima plans.”
The president of the project developer made it very clear that Sonoma State was taken into consideration in the developing of this project. “Absolutely, the University is not only a major employer, but it’s 10,000-plus students and almost 2,000 faculty members are a tremendous draw for quality shops, restaurants, and entertainment businesses.” Bouquillon said “The university is part of the fabric of the community as well as the downtown. We envision a vibrant walkable streetscape that you can tell classes are in session with a quick glance at the mix of people coming and going at Station Avenue.”
Sonoma State student and Rohnert Park resident Christina Oliver said, “I am excited to have a new downtown that offers easy and accessible transportation around the Bay Area” She explained that she was from further down in the bay area and she is excited to have an easier form of transportation to commute back home if necessary.
Students, the developer, and city council members are all hopeful and excited to see the new downtown come to life in the heart of Rohnert Park. Mackenzie said, “Overall , it’s clear that a well-executed plan will benefit Rohnert Park and Sonoma State and other parts of Sonoma County as another attractive community center.”
Bouquillon said, “In our view the downtown is everyone’s downtown and the university students and facility should feel like it’s an extension of the university. We strongly believe Station Avenue will be a catalyst for future development’s that will in some ways compete with other larger Bay Area cities and keep their locally trained grads in Rohnert Park and the North Bay.”