Developer purchases 18 commercial condos; market among newcomers

WINDSOR -- Spring has brought out not only new leaves on the heritage oaks around the Town Green Village mixed-use community in Windsor but also a new generation of businesses eager to fill a string of storefronts shuttered there in recent months.

Key to this renewed retail vigor in the past few weeks is the sale of much of the vacant retail space back to the project developer, Town Green Village LP; relocation of some existing tenants; and confidence among incoming retailers in the viability of others in the second bloom of tenants.

The bloom on the development appeared to have faded last summer amid several store closures. Late last summer Elvera Bragg, one of the original partners in the $120 million project and operator of some of the businesses, started marketing for sale 18 commercial condominium units of the some three dozen commercial and residential units she owned throughout the 14-acre development. On April 11, Town Green Village LP purchased those 18 units for an undisclosed price.

In addition to a Starbucks coffee shop on the green and two new restaurants in the new phase on Windsor River Road, the developers have signed more than a half-dozen deals to buy or lease commercial units. Six of Ms. Bragg’s units were vacant at the time of purchase, and now one has been sold and three others leased to companies offering services locals demand.

“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been leasing like crazy,” Town Green Village managing partner Orrin Thiessen said.

One of the newcomers offers part of what has been at the top of the request list from local residents and retailers: a grocer on the west side of Highway 101. On July 3, Joe and Susanna Rueter, chefs trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, plan to open a 1,800-square-foot gourmet food market next to the Odyssey restaurant facing the railroad tracks and Windsor Road.

Called The Green Grocer, it will carry organic and natural produce and grass-fed meat from farms in a 100-mile radius as well as prepared takeout dishes and lunchtime soup and sandwiches.

“We feel the first generation of shops had its run,” Mr. Rueter said. “We want to be in that strong second wave and want to help the strong restaurant cluster, which includes newcomers this year – Omelette Express and Chinois Asian Bistro.”

Existing restaurateurs are looking to better meet demand. Fred and Sara Langley, who own fine-dining venue Langley’s on the Green, recently acquired the upscale Italian restaurant Mangiamo two buildings down on McClelland Drive and have repositioned it as a family pizzeria with lower pricing.

Copperstone Coffee and David’s Hog Dogs opened recently to cater to middle and high school students on foot. A new dry cleaner opened on Windsor Road. An art studio for Jane Schatzberg of Tucson is set to open, as are relocated offices for The Windsor Times.

Town Green Village is drawing tenants from the 226,000 square feet of shopping center space on the east side of Highway 101 in Windsor. State Farm Insurance agent Renee Hyde is moving her office from the Safeway-anchored Lakewood Village center, and Dream Boutique in the Raley’s-anchored Lakewood Shopping Center across Lakewood Drive is considering such a move.

David McCall, who owns the Windsor franchise for Baskin-Robbins in Lakewood Village and part of the one in Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa, said property management company Kimco Realty Corp., which also manages the adjoining Raley’s-anchored center, wasn’t interested in lowering the asking rent on renewal. He’s negotiating to buy a Town Green Village commercial condo.

“We would have stayed,” he said. “But our lease was running, and we wanted to renegotiate because business volume is down because of the economy.”

One reason for the inflexibility is that Kimco is getting demand from and is finalizing leases with a couple of regional and national upscale tenants, including one seeking 6,000 square feet, according to Rick Turner, leasing agent for the Windsor centers.