Site preparation is set to begin in May for large shopping center and distribution warehouse projects in Petaluma and Fairfield.

Bidding for site work is set to open May 3 for dirt to start moving May 28 on the first phase of the 36.5-acre, 346,000-square-foot Deer Creek Village between Highway 101 and North McDowell Boulevard at Rainier Avenue in Petaluma. The first phase will be for buildings south of Deer Creek, which runs through the northern part of the property, as well as landscaping and riparian upgrades to the creek itself.

The project, shepherded by San Francisco-based Merlone Geier Partners since 2009, has been in the works for the better part of a decade amid major changes to city land-use policy, legal action from project opponents and the loss of an anchor tenant.

The project got a new anchor, a 130,000-square-foot store and garden center for Santa Rosa-based Friedman's Home Improvement. Bidding on the store is set to open May 13 in time for buildings to start coming out of the ground in June. Bidding to build three small shop buildings is set to open May 27, and other bids will be solicited throughout the summer for additional buildings as leases are signed, according to managing partner Greg Geertsen.

While that project has taken six years from the last change in ownership to get under construction, the mammoth 791,000-square-foot, two-building Solano Logistics Center near the Busch industrial park of south Fairfield has taken just six months to do the same.

In July the Fairfield City Council approved a development agreement with The Buzz Oates Group of Companies, a commercial real estate developer and owner out of Sacramento, to purchase 46 acres of surplus city land on Cordelia Road south of the eastern junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 12 for $4.5 million, and the deal closed escrow in the fall.

Site work is set to begin in early May to prepare for the 318,000-square-foot building to be completed by year-end, according to Jon Quick, one of the Colliers International agents marketing the project. Asking lease rates are in the mid-30¢-a-square-foot range, plus a office-buildout allowance. Negotiations are in final stages for a tenant to occupy the entire building.

The market for large distribution warehouse space has accelerated in Solano in the past year, Mr. Quick said.

"There is a real lack for big distribution space with 30-foot-plus clear height," he said.

Colliers also markets Buzz Oates' Vacaville portfolio, and little is left to lease in the existing 1.5 million square feet there, he said. Another 1 million square feet could be build on more than 75 acres of land there. Projects there could proceed this year.

Construction on the second, 473,000-square-foot building in Fairfield would start this year and be done by late 2014.***

[caption id="attachment_72620" align="alignright" width="265"] Justin Barton, Richard Coney[/caption]

Richard Coney, senior property manager in the Santa Rosa office of Keegan & Coppin, and Justin Barton, a property manager in the brokerage's Larkspur office, earned the Certified Property Manager designation from the Bay Area chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management at a recent luncheon held at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco.•••Submit items for this column to or call 707-521-4256.