[caption id="attachment_77131" align="alignnone" width="500"] Target, the anchor tenant of the new 342,000-square-foot East Washington Place regional mall in Petaluma, opened July 23. (image credit: Gary Quackenbush)[/caption]

PETALUMA -- Several years coming, the newest Target department store in the North Bay and the first in Petaluma opened Tuesday at the city's newest and largest shopping center.

Attending the ribbon-cutting Tuesday for the anchor tenant of the 342,661-square-foot East Washington Place regional mall at 401 Kenilworth Dr. were Assemblyman Marc Levine, Target store manager Ricardo Blanco, the store's new 200-strong workforce and their families, and Petaluma officials.

Construction on the mall started early last year. Target is the third major retailer to open there, following debuts of Dick's Sporting Goods and Sprouts in early June.

Joining them in the next six weeks are set to be Beverages & More in a freestanding building and T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods in the same building as Dick's and Sprouts, according to Matthew Kircher, executive managing partner of Terranomics, part of Cassidy Turley and the listing brokerage for East Washington Place. Jennifer Smith of Jacksonville, Fl.-based Regency Centers is the senior leasing agent for the project.

Smaller retailers are scheduling openings over the next few months.

"Demand for space at EWP has been high," Mr. Kircher said. "The center is 94 percent leased. This is one of the first centers on the West Coast to begin construction and leasing after the recession."

The architect for this approximately $60 million project is MCG Architecture, a designer and planner of shopping centers and retail buildings. The general contractor is Midstate Construction Company. 

"This eco-friendly project has been designed to exceed California Title 24 green code requirements by 20 percent, giving it enough points to apply for LEED Silver Certification,"according to Roger Nelson, LEED AP, president of Midstate. "The speed of delivery of this project (following an initial period of public opposition) was based on the architect, owner and the city working well together as a team.”More stores to open soon

[caption id="attachment_77130" align="alignright" width="400"] The major tenants of the new East Washington Place regional mall in Petaluma have opening dates through the summer of 2013. (image credit: Gary Quackenbush)[/caption]

A number of smaller retailers will occupy four smaller buildings at the center. Among them are Chase Bank, Cheese Steak Shop, Chesapeake Shop, Chipolte Mexican Grill, Buffalo Wild Wings, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, H&R Block, Kirklands, Pacific Dental, Panera, Red Boy Pizza, Santa Rosa-based Sift Cupcake & Dessert Bar, Sleep Train, Sprint, Sport Clips, Style Bar, Subway, Ulta, Verizon and Yogurtland.

"Target is bringing approximately 200 new jobs to Petaluma at its 135,000-square-foot store with a one-stop shopping solution in a convenient design environment,"according to Target spokeswoman Anne Christensen. "This outlet will offer guests everyday essentials and exclusive brands they have come to expect from Target, in addition to an expanded collection of fresh produce, groceries, meats and bakery items along with a pharmacy and Starbucks.”

East Washington Place is one of 345 centers built across the nation by developer Regency Centers (regencycenters.com).

Regency managers assert that their new Petaluma project is one of the few opportunities in the coming decade for large retailers to locate in this trade area because of what are perceived as high barriers to entry -- including community opposition in the form of lawsuits to block big-box retail construction along with municipal building rules, policies and fees.City streamlines processes

"Some confuse the cause of initial delays as just a city-related issue when there are significant community concerns as well," said Ingrid Alverde, city economic development manager. "Over the past two years, Petaluma has focused on ways to enhance and clarify the building-application process."

The Development Review Committee was formed to bring together representatives of nine city departments that weigh in on building projects. This committee meets weekly to review applications submitted to the Planning Department, and applicants are invited to attend.

"Having representatives from current and long-range planning, fire, building, water, public works, economic development, code compliance and police all at the same table goes a long way toward surfacing issues at the beginning so there will be no surprises or misunderstandings later," Ms. Alverde said. "Sometimes, applicants discover that the costs associated with impact fees, for example, are too high and cancel their plans before going out to obtain loans or to make contractor and supplier commitments."

The city is working with an outside consultant to see how impact fees and policies, such as those associated with wastewater processing, can be modified or made less costly.

While applicants must adhere to all city requirements, simple projects can usually be reviewed quickly. Complex building projects take more time.

However, having an up-front understanding of the codes, permits, license, fees and expenses involved before filing an application is a better way to proceed, according to Ms. Alverde. This is why exploratory sessions -- held in advance with the committee -- are recommended.

She said it's time for local government to sit down and identify policies that are hard on business and see what can be done to make them more amenable.

"In the past, for example, wine-tasting rooms in industrial zones were forbidden, but this rule was changed allowing tasting and wine production in the same building," Ms. Alverde said. "This is only one of a number of policies that have been revised, reversed or modified based on business community input and dialogue with the city."Project helps plug retail 'leak'

East Washington Place and another major Petaluma retail project just moving into construction, and even longer in progress, are helping to bring to the city shopping options known to have been lacking for nearly a decade.

The city of Petaluma conducted its own retail-leakage study in 2004 and found $105 million in annual spending was not happening in the city, partly going to surrounding communities, because of a lack of certain retailers. The site where East Washington Place is being completed was identified at that time as a good place for such retail space to be built.

According to an early 2010 retail "leakage" study, which assesses how much spending is going to surrounding cities, Petaluma would be better off in municipal finances and commercial vitality with greater retail availability from new projects such as East Washington Place and Deer Creek Village. The study was commissioned by Merlone Geier Partners, developer of the just-started Deer Creek Village project to the north in Petaluma, and conducted by economist Lon Halamiya, former secretary of the California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency.

Site preparation for a Friedman's Home Improvement store to anchor Deer Creek Village mixed-use development started in early July. The store is scheduled to open in March 2014.