ROHNERT PARK -- North Bay officials said they were optimistic that the relocation of a proposed commuter rail stop in Rohnert Park will help spur transit-oriented development in a central district that includes the office complex State Farm Insurance vacated in 2010.
The vision, shared by Mayor Jake Mackenzie and others, is to see the area evolve in lockstep with the nearby City Center Plaza and become a central retail and cultural anchor in a town known for its sectional nature.
Yet in a city where some measures put office space vacancies at more than 40 percent, Mr. Mackenzie said part of the future hinges on the eventual buyer of the 300,000-square-foot building that has been vacant since State Farm Insurance consolidated its operations.
“If you look at the future, we would see the possibility of different uses there,” he said, noting the potential appeal of having an adjacent rail station.
Occupying the building since 1977, State Farm consolidated the 450-employee Rohnert Park office and an 80-person Fresno office into its Bakersfield operation center, a move that was completed in the middle of last year. The move included the closure of nine satellite offices statewide.
Mr. Mackenzie said building the plaza, located near the county library branch completed 10 years ago, was a step toward creating a vibrant mixed-use area in the center of the city. The plaza, now home to various community events, was completed in 2009 and made possible through grant funding.
"This area (including the former State Farm facility) would lend itself to an expansion of that," Mr. Mackenzie said.
The 30-acre property in the heart of Rohnert Park is valued at $16 million.
Listing brokerage Cushman & Wakefield describes the building as "an excellent opportunity to acquire a well-maintained and efficient campus," one that would be well-suited for large tenants in the technology sector. At its peak, the building housed over 1,200 employees.
State Farm remains committed to selling the property, which remains on the market, said company regional spokesman Sevag Sarkissian.
City officials said that the relocation of the proposed Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station could foster greater appeal for developers interested in the area. As part of a first-ever commercial real estate forum in February, Planning and Building Manager Maralyn Ponton told attending developers and brokers that the density of nearby housing could be a perk for some projects.
“Tying it in to possible new development there, the SMART train will be able to serve it,” she said.
The forum, held at Rohnert Park’s city hall, included presentations to raise awareness of development issues and the city’s approval process.
“I want to create a strategic alliance between property owners, commercial Realtors and city staff,” said Linda Babonis, economic development manager.