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[caption id="attachment_34022" align="aligncenter" width="448" caption="Artist rendering of the new main B Street entrance to Santa Rosa Plaza and the planned pickup/dropoff lane. Simon Property Group officials on Thursday emphasized that the current hand statue near the entrance will remain, even though it can't be seen in this rendering."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_34046" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="The B Street entrance to Santa Rosa Plaza with the hand artwork in front of the entrance. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- Shopping mall giant Simon Property Group is making another multimillion-dollar investment this year in Santa Rosa, this time a 16-month interior and exterior renovation of its 700,000-square-foot downtown regional center.

[caption id="attachment_34023" align="alignright" width="150" caption="An artist rendering of the remodeled west entrance to the mall from the parking structures. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

With upgrades at its joint-venture center Coddingtown Mall about a mile north in Santa Rosa set to start this month, Simon on Thursday said it intends to start the work in July at Santa Rosa Plaza mall. Among the changes to the center, listed below, are overhauls of the two main entrances, a new pedestrian connector between Railroad Square on the west side of Highway 101 to the mall and downtown core on the east side and addition of a turnout in front of the east entrance on B Street for mall visitors to be dropped off and picked up.

This would be the first major renovation since Santa Rosa Plaza was built 29 years ago, according to the Indianapolis-based company. Simon has restarted its capital projects pipeline after a pause of a couple of years because of economic conditions, planning to spend $350 million on renovations and expansions this year, up from $96 million in 2010 and $159 million in 2009 but less than the $432 million spent in 2008, according to company regulatory filings.

[caption id="attachment_34048" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Kelly Hartsell"][/caption]

Santa Rosa was one of the first markets the company targeted for resuming the flow of projects, said Kelly Hartsell, regional vice president, at the Plaza project unveiling Thursday, explaining the Coddingtown and Santa Rosa Plaza renovations.

[caption id="attachment_34047" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Vice Mayor Jake Ours unveils a rendering of new Santa Rosa Plaza east entrance. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

While uncovering a rendering of the planned B Street entrance at the event, Vice Mayor Jake Ours said the project is "phase 1 of what I hope will be many phases integrating the downtown."

"We're taking the first steps," he said.

The architecture firm for the project is ELS Architecture & Urban Design of Berkeley. The general contractor is VCC, a large company with a number of U.S. and international offices, including one in Irvine. Simon wants to involve as many local subcontractors as possible [visit VCC's subcontractor website], according to Ms. Hartsell.

[caption id="attachment_34021" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Simon Property Group plans to install electric vehicle charging stations at Santa Rosa Plaza and Coddingtown Mall along with renovations under way this year at both shopping centers. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

Components of the Santa Rosa Plaza upgrade are:

A completely redesigned B Street entrance with a dropoff lane for vehicle , a new entry light feature, new landscaping, lighting and seating.

The inset entrance will be moved to be flush with the building exterior.

New "more comfortable" soft seating throughout inside, replacing existing benches.

A new family restroom on the lower level and completely renovated restrooms on the upper and lower levels of the shopping center.

A redesigned Fourth Street walkway from Railroad Square to the mall and the rest of the downtown area would have "festival" lighting plus seating and new landscaping.

Updated parking garages with new elevators, landscaping, paint and signage.

New directional signage at vehicle entrances.

New lighting throughout the shopping center.

New carpet and tile on the upper level and carpet "vignettes" on the lower level.

New food court ceiling, lighting and furniture enhancements.

New landscaping and lighting around the center.

New glass railings through the second level.

Cosmetic upgrades to the texture and colors of the entire property.

Electric-vehicle charging stations, also being installed at Coddingtown Mall.

Installing the stations in the next 30 days will be 350Green.

The chargers at Coddingtown will be at the north main entrance.

At Santa Rosa Plaza, the chargers will be on the third-level deck of the parking structures.

The chargers can "top off" or partly charge electric vehicle batteries in 90 minutes to two hours.

Use of the chargers initially will be at no cost, and then a "nominal" fee will be levied.