PETALUMA -- A four-story, 50-room boutique hotel is in the early stages of development at South Petaluma Boulevard and B Street, a project that backers said could address a lack of downtown lodging in Sonoma County's second-biggest city

The proposed hotel, which has yet to be named, would occupy an approximately 14,000 square-foot lot that formerly housed a Chevron gas station, and the hotel itself would be approximately 42,000 square feet, according to developers.

Ross Jones, the project's chief developer whose grandmother owned the lot since the 1950s, estimates the cost of the hotel, should it obtain city approval, will be about $12 million. Mr. Jones, an architect, said the plan is to "build a sophisticated, elegant, environmentally friendly hotel on a compact, high profile site."

[caption id="attachment_71669" align="alignleft" width="400"] Architectural sketch of the proposed downtown Petaluma hotel as viewed from the east on B Street. (image credit: Ross Jones)[/caption]

But Mr. Jones did say that much work remains ahead, acknowledging that the project, given its location, could be "complex and not without anticipated hurdles."

Among such hurdles includes a lack of on-site parking and environmental cleanup of the site, which is scheduled for this summer. Upon cleanup, the development team plans to proceed with designs for the hotel rooms, a projected rooftop garden, meeting rooms and a guest lounge.

"We aim to meet the intent of zoning constraints in order to fully develop a complimentary amenity for downtown's bustling shopping and restaurant district," Mr. Jones said.

Developers have already identified a possible management group, Piazza Hospitality Group, according to Dave Alden, a civil engineer and entitlement coordinator for the project. It currently owns and manages a number of North Bay properties, including Hotel Healdsburg and h2hotel, also in Healdsburg.

If and when the city approves the project, developers hope to break ground by spring 2014 and be ready for occupancy by early 2015, Mr. Alden said. Those preliminary targets could change, depending on a number of factors, he added.

The proposed hotel by Mr. Jones for downtown Petaluma is the second recent hospitality development for a city with a relative paucity of hotel rooms compared with the rest of the county.

Owners of Hotel Petaluma, a single-room-occupancy residence hotel, recently announced plans to convert it into a full-service hotel. That project, though, is being contested by hotel residents.

Mr. Alden said there's one other hotel in downtown Petaluma, Metro Hotel on Petaluma Boulevard South, but that’s small and not enough to accommodate the city in terms of tourism.  

"Other than that, there's really nothing else downtown," Mr. Alden said. "It's a gap in the hospitality industry, and hopefully we can fill it."

The Sheraton Sonoma County--Petaluma, the city's biggest hotel, is about two miles away on the southeast edge of the city.

Like h2hotel in Healdsburg, Mr. Alden said sustainability and environmentally conscious design is a big feature for the proposed Petaluma project.

While Sonoma County's southernmost city may not be in the heart of wine country, it's certainly not far, and Mr. Alden said the city's history with agriculture and farming could be a draw for visitors.

The development team has held numerous public meetings to gauge neighborhood concern, and parking has emerged as the chief hurdle, Mr. Alden said. The team is working with the city and other private property owners to develop an appropriate alternative.

Also, the number of stories may be slightly more than city would prefer and may be reduced to three stories, though it's too soon to be sure, Mr. Alden said.

Pending project approval, it also is too soon to quote room rates, he said.