Developer to sell proposed downtown Rohnert Park site, officials say

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A San Francisco-based firm, Laulima Development, finalized the purchase of the 32-acre property at the former State Farm Insurance campus, initially named Rohnert Station. on Dec. 1, 2019. The developer envisioned a mixed-use project of retail, office space and housing, that would have been part of a massive downtown Rohnert Park redevelopment plan. The developer sought to complete construction on Station Avenue by spring 2021. But Rohnert Park officials say the developer is now planning to sell the site, which as of Dec. 2021 had yet to break ground. (Chad Surmick / The Press Democrat)
December 29, 2021

The owner of a stalled $400 million redevelopment project that would have created Rohnert Park’s long-desired downtown hub has notified the city that it intends to sell the property, Rohnert Park officials said.

The notice was given by Laulima Development, a San Francisco-based firm that planned to build a mixed-use development on State Farm Drive that would have included 460 apartment units, a five-story luxury hotel and 270,000 square feet of space for restaurants, boutique shops and business offices, Rohnert Park Assistant Manager Don Schwartz said.

Laulima’s plan for the 32-acre property, dubbed Station Avenue, was given the green light by the Rohnert Park City Council in 2018, a year after the firm bought the former insurance company site for $13.5 million.

The company’s President David Bouquillon did not return multiple calls seeking an interview regarding his company’s intention to sell the site.

Schwartz did not know exactly when the city was first notified of the developer’s plans, though those conversations have happened over "a matter of months," he said via email Tuesday.

Rohnert Park City Councilman Gerard Giudice, who previously served as the city’s mayor, said Tuesday he had been notified by city staff about the developer’s decision a month and a half ago.

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At least four potential buyers have approached the city about the property, though Laulima Development will have the final say on who to sell to, Schwartz said. He declined to provide information about who is interested in purchasing the site.

The plans for the current redevelopment project would transfer to the new owner, though it would be up to them to decide whether to carry those out or seek approval for something new, Schwartz added.

"We’ve approved the plan for downtown," Schwartz said. "Whether the new owner will want to continue with that plan, or continue with something different, we don’t know."

Jonathan "Jes" Slavik, Laulima’s director of planning and design, was reached by phone Tuesday, but he referred questions to Bouquillon.

The project was initially scheduled to have retail and office space built by fall 2020.

However, the project has been delayed at least twice.

In Aug. 2019, Laulima Development officials told the Rohnert Park City Council that rising labor and materials costs related to the 2017 North Bay fires had slowed their plans.

And nearly a year later, in June 2020, Rohnert Park officials said the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic recession forced the project to be postponed again.

Realtor David Rendino, the co-owner of RE/MAX Marketplace in Cotati, said a search of the commercial real estate database CoStar showed that the State Farm Drive property was not currently listed for sale.

Generally speaking, Rendino said, commercial owners can sell property off the public market by going to large, institutional investors or developers who may be interested in making the purchase. The tactic can help prevent specific information about the property from being released to the public, he said.

"In turn, they’ll ask for a nondisclosure agreement before specifics are shared with private investors," Rendino said.

Giudice, the Rohnert Park city councilman, said word of a sale indicates to him that Station Avenue, the downtown redevelopment project, is "back in play."

That is good news given the economic and housing advances the project could bring to the city once built, Giudice said.

"If the property transfers from one owner to another, it’s the same conditions," he added. "We don’t want to start from scratch again. They grab that development and pick it up."

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or [email protected]. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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