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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, October 7, 2013, 5:50 am

1,645-home University District project near SSU closer to reality

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    The 300-acre University District mixed-use development is coming closer to reality in Rohnert Park, following proposed updates to the area’s specific plan and an improving outlook for large-scale development throughout Sonoma County.

    map of University District housing project in Rohnert ParkThose updates, reviewed by the Rohnert Park City Council in July, take into account the significant changes in the project’s surrounding area and in the regional economy since the city first approved the plans of Canadian developer Brookfield Homes in 2006.

    Specifics of of the changed proposal will become solidified in upcoming meetings. Yet for some, the public effort to recalibrate the 1,645-home development for a changed economy was a broader signal that the machinery of new home construction was coming back to life in Rohnert Park.

    The proposal maintains the number of housing units in the 2006 plan, but alters the proportion of each housing type. Up to 18 acres originally slated for “rural estate” homes will be allocated to other uses, while the number of high-density homes is reduced by half.

    The largest increase is in the number of proposed mid-density homes, with 889 units up 65.5 percent from the 2006 plan. The new proposal also calls for 435 low-density homes — a 36 percent increase — along with the 321 high-density units.

    The proposed amendment also rearranges elements within the development, including the relocation of the mixed-use commercial area to be closer to the now-completed Green Music Center. The move would improve common use for future residents and the students of the nearby Sonoma State University while offering up to 150 additional housing units, according to council materials.

    The size of the commercial portion itself has increased as well, from 9.5 acres to 11.3 acres. The new approach maintains the 60 acres of open space and basins envisioned in the 2006 plan, along with 13 acres of public parks and more than five acres of trails.

    The entrance to the proposed development from Rohnert Park Expressway was also recommended for adjustment to interface more smoothly with the Green Music Center.

    Housing construction is currently expected to begin in January 2015. Construction had stalled during the recession, and the 10-to-15 year development timeline will remain subject to economic conditions.

    The city of Rohnert Park has recently taken steps to boost the University District and other projects on the east side of the city, most notably with the commitment to construct a $13 million sewer trunk line in anticipation of the upcoming development.

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