University District to bring residential, commercial developments

Construction of the University District has barely begun, yet the developments are expected to bring commercial and residential communities to the city.

Construction of the University District has barely begun, yet the developments are expected to bring commercial and residential communities to the city.

Canadian powerhouse Brookfield Residential has entered phase one of the new Rohnert Park housing developments known as the University District.  The 300-acre district lies across the street from the Green Music Center, hugging the streets of Rohnert Park Expressway and Petaluma Hill Road.

“Phase one [of the district] consists of 399 units that are officially under construction and are expected to take two to five years,” said Mary Grace Pawson, acting development services director of Rohnert Park.

These new housing developments will serve the large population of Rohnert Park.  According to the general plan released by the city, from the year 1965 to 1999, the population grew from 4,412 to 41,000 people.

“In the 1990s, it was a huge question as to how big Rohnert Park would grow to be,” said Rohnert Park City Councilmember Jake Mackenzie, “This [University District] is how Rohnert Park would meet population requirements.”

Since then, the Rohnert Park area has experienced a period of population stability with a current population of 41,398.  Brookfield Residential, based out of Calgary, a metropolitan city in Alberta, Canada, first presented the proposal to the city in 2006.  The plan was approved, but the project was delayed due to a stunted economic system that is starting to see progression since the days of the recession.

Now that the project has the green light, Sonoma State University President Ruben Armiñana said, “It seems to be moving quickly and efficiently after many years of having stalled due to the lackluster economy.”

More issues that concerned the city council involved water usage and if developing such a large community was practical with the resources available.

“The developer incorporated a significant amount of water conservation technology, which aligns with the mentality of the surrounding community,” said Pawson.

Very similar to Sonoma State, which lies directly across the street from the new developments, water conservation remains a top priority for developers and city planners alike, especially due to the drought in California.

This master-planned community consists of 12 neighborhoods with varying living styles including single family homes and townhouses.  These new homes will reflect the influence of its surrounding area; the impact of the local music, art, and education all go into the recipe that will create the vision that is the University District.

Creating homes for the citizens of Rohnert Park is an obvious benefit to the local community, but Sonoma State can also expect positive return from having new neighbors.  Students will have the option to live in the district, but the price will be known closer to the opening of the community.  It is rumored that a hotel will occupy a portion of the available commercial space.

“There is the possibility in the future of a hotel which could be accessed by parents and students visiting campus, especially around commencement,” said Armiñana, “The [University district] will add commercial space that can be occupied by services useful to our students such as restaurants and stores.”

The goal of this district is to create a mix of residential, rural, and commercial developments that will ultimately intertwine the Rohnert Park residents and spurs the economy of the city. One of the reasons this project commenced after an unsuspecting halt due to economic turmoil was the public push for some new developments.  With the aid of the citizens of Rohnert Park, the city council and Brookfield Residential have made strides to creating a connected community that serves a residential and commercial purpose.

The district will connect residents to Sonoma State University, the local middle and high schools and the Green Music Center via three miles of trails for pedestrians and bikers alike.

For more information on the University District, visit