PETALUMA -- Santa Rosa-based Friedman's Home Improvement today said it has signed a letter of intent to lease space for a store in the 33-acre planned Regency Centers mixed-use development in Petaluma known as the Kenilworth project and East Washington Place.

Friedman's wants to open an 80,000-square-foot store with a 20,000-square-foot garden center and drive-through lumber yard in the southern anchor-tenant position of the shopping center in August 2011.

Friedman's had considered six Petaluma sites before narrowing the search to East Washington Place and Riverfront, a mixed-use project led by Reno-based Basin Street Properties. In March the 63-year-old home-improvement retailer was announced as a venture partner in the Riverfront project.

However, being part of a regional shopping center persuaded Friedman's to shift its focus to East Washington Place, according to David Proctor, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Plans for the center call for 378,000 square feet of retail and office space.

"What was persuasive was retail adjacency," he said.

Friedman's currently has three stores. The Ukiah store benefits from visits to surrounding retailers such as Wal-Mart, Staples and FoodMaxx in Ukiah Redwood Business Park, according to Mr. Proctor.

"The Sonoma and Santa Rosa stores are destination sites, where you need a determined customer to visit," he said.

The company is committed to return to Petaluma, where the company started in 1963 and had a store until lease challenges forced its closing in the mid-1970s. A 2004 city study on retail sales "leakage" to Rohnert Park and Novato showed demand for a home-improvement and hardware store, exacerbated by The Home Depot's recent closure of the Yardbird's Design Center in south Petaluma. City studies suggested such uses would be better place at the Regency site.

The announcement about Friedman's comes as the Petaluma Planning Commission tonight is set to consider the final environmental impact report for East Washington Place's first named prospective anchor tenant -- a 139,000-square-foot Target department store.

A draft environmental report is being prepared for the center. The goal is to start construction next year.