14 Aug Developer again delays $400M downtown Rohnert Park development
Rohnert Park will have to wait longer on its downtown city center project, but how long is not known.
Officials with Laulima Development, the San Francisco firm that owns the 32-acre former State Farm Insurance property approved in November for a $400 million residential and commercial development dubbed Station Avenue, delivered news of major delays to the City Council on Tuesday night.
The developer blamed continued postponement of the project on rising labor and materials costs — including on lumber and cement — following the North Bay fires, in addition to competitive pressures from the Bay Area’s building boom.
Originally, construction was supposed to start earlier this year, with the 270,000 square feet of retail and office space ready by fall 2020. The 460 rental housing units and a 156-room luxury hotel would follow by spring 2021.
“I’m just very disappointed with where we’re at right now,” said Vice Mayor Joe Callinan, who owns a residential and light commercial construction business. “If we started right now it would be 2022, I bet. We’re not even close to that.”
David Bouquillon, Laulima’s managing partner, said he’d continue to work with the city in the coming weeks to come up with cost-saving measures to build the sprawling development as soon as possible.
Previously, the project hit a snag when city officials and the developer were at odds over a 2-acre city property that houses its Public Works Department. They reached an agreement the land would be sold for about $1 million once the project’s retail and office space is finished.
That brief stalemate led the developer to instead plan for a summer 2021 completion of the project. Now even that is out the window, and Bouquillon was noncommittal Tuesday about a start date, given the challenges to construction that have made the project what he called “un-financeable.”
“I don’t think anybody is more disappointed than us. We came in here and made a cash investment that I think was one of the bigger ones in this city,” Bouquillon said. “Since 2016, we still haven’t put down the pencil. So we’re here to stay and work this out. You can’t get rid of us.”
Laulima finalized purchase of the site in December 2017 for $13.5 million, plus spent $7 million more on demolition of the State Farm building and project design.
Mayor Gine Belforte, who is in the process of rebuilding a home lost in the October 2017 firestorm, said she understood rising building costs firsthand and was hopeful both sides could maintain a strong working relationship to eventually see Station Avenue completed.
“It keeps going up, and up and up,” she said of her construction costs. “So I can only imagine what’s happening on a commercial project like this. But it’s nice to know that you’re going to be here in the long run, and we’re looking forward to it.”