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Market concept unveiled for Broadway site

A RENDERING OF WHAT the Sonoma Truck and Auto site could look like.

A RENDERING OF WHAT the Sonoma Truck and Auto site could look like.

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What to do with the Sonoma Truck & Auto site, sitting more or less empty on nearly two acres, at 870 Broadway, a vacant gateway to the city center, a prize location for the right developer with the right idea?

That is the question confronting the City of Sonoma and many of its citizens, who view the site as both a benchmark and a test that may define the Valley’s future.

During the second public meeting orchestrated Feb. 20 by Southern California developer Owen Smith, to test public sentiment and collect input, a design emerged that found a high level of at least preliminary support.

The concept was a public market, based in part on Napa’s Oxbow Market, that would provide mass and structure to one side of a courtyard that would include a restaurant, residential space, and perhaps a community garden.

As presented by Mike Pattinson, principal architect with the San Francisco firm Bull Stockwell Allen, the concept was one of three viable options identified for the site, that might also include a small hotel and residential units.

Three variations of a plan, possibly incorporating all three elements, were presented to the public, containing about 12,000 square feet of market space, 24,000 square feet of residential space and 2,000 to 3,000 square feet for a restaurant and parking.

Public response to the courtyard concept was almost universal, if somewhat skeptical when combined with on-site parking.

Said Sonoma architect Bill Willers, “The courtyard is the Achilles heel. The parking lot-ness of it is the thing you most have to overcome.”

Pattinson showed schematics of the proposals on a screen, pointing out that each configuration allowed for significant setback from the banks of Nathanson Creek, which defines the eastern boundary of the property. That pleased Larry Barnett, whose Preserving Sonoma Committee is paying close attention to the property’s fate. “I think your instinct is correct about respecting the creek and not building close to it,” he said.

Pattinson said the property could accommodate 38 residential units, but Smith cautioned that any assumptions about numbers of units for living space or hotel rooms were premature and that far more work would be required before even a preliminary proposal could be presented to the city.

But he said the market concept was clearly the most attractive and he felt it could be viable. “We have multiple operators willing to work with us, and they are very excited to get in there,” he told the Index-Tribune after the meeting.

Smith acknowledged that combining the proposed courtyard with on-site parking could be a problem.

That was our big take-away,” he said of the meeting. “We might have to move some of the parking to the street.”

He said the next step for the project is to “get the feel and massing right” of the elements, and to add in the specific building and design requirements imposed by the city.

He said it was too early to talk about the size of a possible hotel, adding that, “A hotel is not a requirement, by any means, but it’s a good, symbiotic relationship. It would certainly be smaller than what’s next door,” referring to MacArthur Place, the 64-room hotel directly across the street.

Pattinson said the project is a “good two to three months away” from being ready for presentation to city officials, assuming that Smith is prepared to move forward.

  • Mike Stephens

    The Market idea is a great one! I would prefer seeing small boutique hotel rather than rental housing or perhaps some live/work spaces and small hotel. Why don’t people like the courtyard? If it is landscaped and decorated nicely it will be a great place to hang out and have coffee,snacks and hopefully the restaurant can open onto this space. Fountain? It is exactly what Sonoma needs. We certainly don’t need more cheap housing projects. These never look good and this project if done properly will open up Broadway and make it more appealing. I would lose some of the onsite parking to make the market and courtyard larger. There is no way to make parking look good. There is plenty of off street parking up and down Broadway. Kudos to the developer and town to work on something that will bring life to Sonoma much like OXBOW Market did to Napa. I drive over and hang out since Sonoma lacks in this department. If this doesnt fly, perhaps the old General’s Daughters Space can be converted to an OXBOW like market. Let’s move Crisp Bakeshop, Epicurean Connection and add a cool coffee spot as well as maybe El Molino and other small and special food establishments that really appeal to everyone.

    • Karen Adams

      I agree, Sonoma needs that type of facelift to bring new life and tourists back to help pay for our development, and clean up should start towards Boyes and Fairmont area for new growth out there to take the tourists north on 12 for the establishment owners at that end.

  • In Sonoma Since 1972

    I’ll repeat what I posted on another development story this morning here:

    Water levels are at all-time lows… 2013 was the driest calendar year in California’s recorded history… We’re in the midst of another winter that wasn’t… I’m being asked to voluntarily cut back my water usage… Water rationing is just around the corner…

    And, yet, we continue to build, not just single family homes but, high density developments (169 new residential water meters in this proposal (Boyes Hot Springs), alone!) ***…and another 38 here in this Sonoma proposal…*** that are only going to further deplete our already depleted water supplies?!

    When do we wake up and smell the coffee, gang?!

    • David Eichar

      Perhaps the local governments can take a look at requiring grey water re-use for landscape irrigation and/or rain water capture systems for any new development over a certain size. Also, existing heavy users of water, such as hotels, could be required to install such systems.

      • Karen Adams

        We must also start fining these management companies that don’t turn off their timer when it is going to rain, I bet if we drove around right now we would see watering going on. I saw it the last rain on W Napa. These people don’t care,they are too lazy to turn it off, and we pay for it.

    • The Village Idiot

      . . . when there is no more water left to make coffee. ;-)

  • Larry Barnett

    I suggested the idea of an Ox-Bow style facility at the first community meeting in an attempt to insure that development on the Truck and Auto site is as resident-centric as tourist-centric. It is properly setting this balance which lies at the heart of keeping Sonoma a livable community. That the developer is considering a small inn or hotel smaller than MacArthur Place is fine; ironically it may be in the range of 25 rooms if combined with a modest residential component, which the mixed-use zoning designation requires. It’s been gratifying to see and hear the ideas of the developer and the positive reaction of the community to this idea.

    • Mike Stephens

      I am sorry i missed the meeting, but thank you for clarifying the courtyard and I am relieved to hear that this can hopefully be revised. People live and come to Sonoma to be outside during spring and summer and having a gathering space centered around local food shops and markets make total sense. A small inn with a top notch restaurant with more outdoor seating (not facing broadway) would be an incredible opportunity for all that live and visit in Sonoma. Check out the feel of the Larkspur Country Mart in Marin County. It was once a boring dull outdated mall and now is a gathering place for everyone with lots of great places to eat,drink and shop, but has a country feel with gather spots and a nice fountain. I hope this plan continues to get perfected and moves forward.