Top Real Estate Projects 2012: Honoring the places where we live, work, learn and play

The Business Journal honored 14 building projects last Thursday at its seventh annual Top Real Estate Projects Awards reception. The event allowed us to pause for a moment during this busy time of year to consider the accomplishments of the organizations, architects, designers, builders and others behind these significant projects.Donald and Maureen Green Music Center, Weill Concert HallHoward residence at MayacamaThe Meritage Resort and Spa expansionKenwood Marketplace and VJB CellarsRoseland Creek ElementaryFife Creek Commons affordable housingMendocino College Library and Learning Resource CenterOakville Grocery original store seismic retrofit and restorationVintage Chateau II senior housingE&J Gallo Winery North Coast officesLuther Burbank Savings headquarters branchCollege of Marin performing arts building renovationBiosearch Technologies new headquartersThomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant and Bouchon Bakery

Among the honorees was the spectacular Donald & Maureen Green Music Center and Joan & Sanford I. Weill Concert Hall at Sonoma State University. By almost any measure, it is a transformational accomplishment for education, for the arts and beyond. Yes, it took 16 years for the vision to become a reality. But that is a wink in the history of music and the arts that will be put on display there. The hall is an acoustical masterpiece equal to the work of masters. And it sits at the center of the region's leading public university.

Also among the projects honored Thursday and profiled in this issue was Roseland Creek Elementary School, the first school to be built in the culturally diverse school district in 50 years.

In Healdsburg, the 109-year-old former Olivet Winery building had fallen into severe disrepair. Then architect Alan Cohen and other professional colleagues were inspired to save it along with owner E&J Gallo.

"The biggest uncertainty was the structural integrity of the building itself, because it sat vacant for years," said Mark Davis, president of the project general contractor Wright Contracting. "It was like taking apart a Tinkertoy set."

The result of the painstaking $2 million restoration is a unique office environment for Gallo's Sonoma County support staff of 50 people in accounting, winemaking, events management, wine education and public relations.

Other projects honored include VJB Cellars in Kenwood, the ambitious expansion of the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, the restoration of the historic Oakville Grocery as well as innovative housing projects for low-income residents and seniors.

Each of these 14 projects by themselves is an achievement, putting people to work and testing the boundaries of creativity and innovation. But taken together, these projects represent a remarkable combined contribution to the region's built environment where people live, work, learn and play.

We think it would be mistake to let these accomplishments fade silently into the landscape. So we hope you will join us in congratulating those involved in these 14 outstanding projects....

Brad Bollinger is the Business Journal's editor in chief and associate publisher. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or

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