[caption id="attachment_53947" align="alignright" width="315" caption="Artist rendering of the Marmot sign on the new office building in Rohnert Park"][/caption]

ROHNERT PARK -- High-end outdoor clothing and gear maker Marmot Mountain LLC wants to have its expansion to 58,000 square feet of office and light-manufacturing space in two vacant Rohnert Park buildings completed by summer, and thanks to a gamble by one of the new landlords and a fast-moving city permitting process, building permits for the bulk of the tenant improvements were approved in just eight calendar days.Stories in this reportMay 15 event: Contractor rules, regulations and today’s projectsReport: Homebuilding to rebound after prices hit bottom in 2013Marmot got RP building permits in eight daysFood bank expects to open new building in January

It went that quickly because the Marmot improvements to former Next Level Communications buildings on State Farm Drive needed just building permits and not city Planning Commission approval, the permit applications were complete upon submission and the design team for the extensive work at 6085 State Farm started working with city staff on the plan months before the lease was signed in April.

"The Development Services Department has a team put together for situations like Marmot where a commercial space has been vacant for a long time and the owners are anxious to work out a deal with tenants like Marmot that are looking at getting quickly relocated," said Mayor Jake Mackenzie.

Marmot is moving 124 employees from southwest Santa Rosa and plans to hire 40 locally in the next three years. [See the story "Marmot expanding with lease of former Next Level site," April 23.]

Santa Rosa-based Coker Architects started talking with city planning, building and fire officials months before Marmot signed the leases in April, finding out what would be needed in the design to transform 15,000 square feet of 6085 State Farm from a warehouse into a light-manufacturing plant for Marmot's top-end products.

Planning and Building Manager Marilyn Ponton brought the preapplication meeting option to the city nearly three years ago after using it in Lathrop, Dixon and Las Vegas over the past two decades. A number of North Bay governments also offer forms of preapplication meetings.

"We find that the hour or whatever it may be in staff time reviewing these documents helps applicants work out issues that often have to come back with changes," she said. Such issues could be additional engineering needed for utility hookups or unanticipated constraints on site-improvement plans. That back and forth between city staff and the applicant's team can add weeks to the process.

As negotiations between Marmot and the Coyne family that owns the larger Rohnert Park building at 5789 State Farm stretched on from last fall through early this year, architect Ken Coker took the preapplication process a step further by getting needed 26-foot metal studs from Southern California approved by the city's third-party plan checker, Code Source of Sebastopol, and ordering those supports before the leases were signed.

"My client, Schulz Trust, was confident the lease would be worked out, so they gambled to get going early," Mr. Coker said.

So, when the leases were finally signed, Coker Architects was ready to submit a complete permit application, and the first plan check comments came back in just 10 days. BCC General Contractors of Cotati went to work on more than a quarter-million dollars in improvements days afterward.

"Public agencies are starting to think of this as a team effort," Mr. Coker said. "They want to get business up and running again."

Rohnert Park also has been working with a number of other businesses get their permit applications ready for quick processing. For example, an application for a 2,200-square-foot freestanding Chipotle Mexican Grill fast-casual restaurant in the Northbay Centre neighborhood mall involved a number of consultants and architects, but the permit process went quickly, and construction is set to start this spring.

Other quick-turnaround retail projects have been a current proposal to upgrade the exterior and interior of the vacant Beverly's Crafts store for a 99 Cents Only discount store, with half general merchandise and half grocery for prepackaged foods. Completed recently was permitting for rehabilitation of a former Shell gas station by Royal Petroleum under the Union 76 brand and a Valero gas station with car wash and Subway restaurant were purchased out of bankruptcy and permitted for a rebranding project under Shell.