Vacated for nearly three weeks after fire swept around its three prominent buildings, prestigious Fountaingrove Center on Round Barn Blvd. in northeast Santa Rosa pushed nonstop on Oct. 24 to revive the business hub.
Crews from Air Doctor snaked hoses into the building at 3550 Round Barn Blvd. to scrub the inside of the ventilation system, where smoky gunk accumulated over days of awful air quality as the utility-blackout area smoldered after massive firestorms hurtled through in the early hours of Oct. 9. Bright green air scrubbers and filters were positioned throughout the building’s hallways in efforts to suck smoke-flavored air out and replace it with fresh air that finally surrounded the area.
Two weeks earlier, flames flattened Fountaingrove Inn, Equus restaurant, the historic Fountaingrove Round Barn and the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, where insurance adjusters had begun to inspect the ruins. But just uphill, all three Fountaingrove Center structures sat unburned, even though fire wrecked landscaping all around them. BasinStreet Properties, with headquarters in Reno and a North Bay office in Petaluma, owns Fountaingrove Center.
BasinStreet also owns 3562 Round Barn Circle and 3333 Mendocino Ave., both buildings smack in the fire’s destructive path but intact.
“The bigger question is why did those buildings survive?” said Matt White, principal in BasinStreet, in an email to North Bay Business Journal. “I have strong views on this topic. And they are not unscathed by any means.”
Comcast, under its Xfinity brand, restored broadband Internet service to Fountaingrove Center on Oct. 24. Air Doctor hustled to clean all of BasinStreet’s buildings and get them opened for business by Oct. 30. The task was daunting.
A few intrepid business people made it past National Guard members posted on still blockaded Fountaingrove Parkway into their smoke-tinged offices to push ahead with work. But not many. Mostly the buildings sat eerily quiet, though power had been restored nearly a week earlier, a ghost town of business on hiatus.
In one office, a small green air purifier sent out a stream of anti-smoke mist, wholly inadequate to counter the powerful stench that gripped the structures.
Fountaingrove Center houses a multiplicity of businesses. The building closest to demolished Hilton hotel has offices of Kaiser Permanente, including public affairs, and Praxis Capital, plus Redwood Trust Deed Services, National Trench Safety, Umpqua Bank Alpha Capital Management, CPA Richard Chassey and Buckingham Strategic Wealth, Wells Fargo Private Bank and Advisors, Summit Funding and Mark Enlow, an executive-search office.
Just up the hill is 3554 Round Barn Blvd., which has Artisan Sotheby’s International Realty, Merrill, Arnone & Jones law firm, offices of sole-practitioner attorneys and Scarbrough Financial Group.
Farther up is 3558, where Moss Adams has the top floor, with Daniel Crowley’s law firm on the main level. Several attorneys and staff members at the Crowley firm had ventured in, marveling at their good fortune and setting to work with at least partial normality. But vestiges of the fire left searing marks on both the business landscape and the consciousness of business principals and employees. These are not ordinary times. Nearly everyone in the building had friends or family who had lost homes and other property in the calamity. The trauma will persist into months and years ahead.
James Dunn covers technology, biotech, law, the food industry, and banking and finance. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-4257