Shipping container development planned for Sonoma Highway lot in Boyes

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One block north of Barking Dog Roasters, on a neglected stretch of pavement housing four tired structures, an industrial landscape is poised to take shape. Imagined by Ken and Stacy Mattson, newcomers transplanted to Sonoma from Piedmont, and scheduled to be executed by Tim Sloat, the Mattson’s real estate development manager, the “Springs Container Project: An Experimental, Temporary, Mixed-Use Development” will be operational by April 2018 if everything goes according to plan.

The 2018 launch goal assumes approval from PRMD, as well as an expedited timeline. With six properties valued at nearly $10 million purchased in and around Sonoma since 2015, the Mattsons likely know their way around Sonoma County’s permitting process.

Presented in its most recent iteration at Thursday’s Springs Community Alliance meeting, the project proposes 1,056 square feet of commercial space and three residential units for the quarter-acre lot. All will be made from discarded shipping containers, the steel boxes used to move merchandise across oceans.

Fans and skeptics alike have chimed in.

“Wait, are we razing that sweet building with the arched doorway? I love that,” said one Facebook post.

“Turning the Springs into an industrial park? Go back to Piedmont,” said another.

“Totally love the remake idea. Would like different siding, but this is a win,” said a third.

Anchored by Sondra Bernstein’s proposed noodle shop, a concept she’s been testing at the site with her Fig Rig for months, the project’s other tenants have not yet been finalized, though a bicycle repair shop, a tea house, and “micro retail” have been proposed.

“We are still considering several possibilities for a tenant in the micro-shop space. Originally, we aspired to have a few separate micro-shops, however we had to simplify and down-size that element due to site plan changes that came out of our pre-application process with PRMD,” said Sloat. “We would like to add a user – or collaboration of users – who could add foot traffic and energy to the project. Any interested parties are welcome to inquire.”

Bernstein’s “Noodle Springs” kitchen is designed primarily for take-out, though an 880-square-foot patio and 320-square-foot roof deck will be available for dining on site. Local residents will have access to these outdoor areas, which will be “generally open” as a casual space for the community to enjoy, indicated Sloat.

Three housing units are planned for the development as well: one 720-square-foot, 2-bed/1-bath apartment; and two 480-square-foot, 1-bed/1-bath units. None will be officially designated low-income, but all three units are intended to be rented below market rates.

Though the project’s developers hope the community will reach the Container Project mainly on foot or by bike, parking and vehicle access must meet county standards. The current design designates 14 spaces for parking, six shy of the minimum required by the project’s square footage. Developers contend that the shared outdoor areas alter the calculations, thereby reducing the number of parking spaces required. One-way access to the parking lot will be available from Sonoma Highway, while Bonita Way, which runs parallel to the highway behind the lot, allows two-way traffic in and out.

The entire container project is designed to be temporary, with project duration estimated between five and seven years. During that interval, the Mattsons will plan a second stage, the final, permanent development of the parcel.

“Phase two is wide open for the future community and economic conditions to dictate,” said Sloat. “The hope is that this current short-term development concept will help add to the existing momentum that is making this part of town a vibrant community hub. Additionally, the Springs Specific Plan, currently underway, will have a major impact on shaping what is to come.”

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