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More than 220 apartments slated for site of burned Fountaingrove Inn in Santa Rosa

More than 200 new homes are now planned in a gated community on the sites of the former Fountaingrove Inn and Fountaingrove Round Barn, representing a dramatic shift in land use on 10 highly visible acres in northeast Santa Rosa.

The 224-unit Fountaingrove Inn Apartments would be located at the intersection of Mendocino Avenue and Fountaingrove Parkway, a stone’s throw east of Highway 101 and catty-corner from a separate, larger development of more than 500 apartments on the site of the former Journey’s End mobile home park.

Combined, the two developments would create more than 750 new homes on land ravaged by the 2017 firestorm at one of the main entrances to the Fountaingrove area, which continues to rebuild more than two and a half years after the Tubbs fire.

Since 2003, Angelo Ferro has owned the Fountaingrove Inn property, which encompassed the 124-room hotel, the Equus restaurant and the historic round barn, all burned to the ground in the wildfire.

He explored rebuilding but decided to go in a different direction after taking a “hard look” at the hotel market, said Justin Hayman, formerly the inn’s general manager and now representing Ferro on the housing project.

“We’re well aware that we’re building on a really historical property in a real prominent intersection,” Hayman said. “We think that we’re going to provide a development that’s up to par.”

Hayman did not say how much the project would cost or how long it would take to build. He said the decision to build apartments and not rebuild the Fountaingrove Inn was made in late 2018 but noted that the apartment development was still in the early phases.

Demand for hotel rooms, he said, has not kept pace with the addition of new local lodging options. A 114-room Marriott is in the works nearby after securing city approval last summer, while Hilton has indicated it will rebuild its Fountaingrove hotel and several other new hotels in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County have opened or are in development.

Sonoma County Tourism tallied 6,900 hotel rooms countywide in January, with 1,500 more planned or in progress.

The ongoing affordable-housing crisis also played a role, Hayman added.

“Employees were leaving the area, so we were having a hard time filling positions,” he said.

The Tubbs fire destroyed 4,600 homes, including more than 3,000 in Santa Rosa, with more than half of them in the hilly and affluent Fountaingrove area. As of Thursday, 344 Fountaingrove homes have been rebuilt, with another 492 under construction, according to city data.

At the end of February, when Santa Rosa marked its 1,000th completed home, 16% of Fountaingrove’s 1,586 burned homes had been rebuilt, with 48% under construction or in the pipeline and 36% of lots showing no activity.

Across Mendocino Avenue, on the now-vacant 13.3-acre former Journey’s End property, a development team is looking to add 532 apartments, including 160 affordable units for seniors that will be offered first to former mobile home park residents who lost their homes in the fire.

Principals in that project include affordable housing developers Burbank Housing and Related California; and North Bay Mendocino Holdings, a group helmed by Darius Anderson, a developer and lobbyist who is managing member of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.

The Fountaingrove Inn site is much hillier, which limits its development potential compared to a flatter piece of property, Hayman said.

The project went before the Design Review Board last week for a review of its planned layout: A mix of studios and one- and two-bedrooms in a gated community, where six white buildings with brown trim and accents connected by pedestrian paths embody “the ambiance of a hillside village,” according to development documents filed with the city.

The project is not expected to include any bid to rebuild the old Round Barn, said Lauri Moffet-Fehlberg, a senior principal with Dahlin Group, a design firm working on the project. But the new property might include an architectural nod to the former landmark.

“We agree that it’s not appropriate to try to rebuild it,” Moffet-Fehlberg told the Design Review Board.

“It never turns out like you hope it would. But some kind of homage to that idea is in the mix.”

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com.

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