Commercial real estate options for University District remain unclear

Twelve neighborhoods, 1,236 single-family homes, two public parks and three miles of trails are all part of the University District being built across from the Sonoma State University campus on Rohnert Park Expressway. 

The first three neighborhoods opened for sale in the fall. However, what’s next for this development is still being questioned. So if students are hoping to see a grocery store open up across the street, that’s still unclear.

“Approximately 100,000 square feet of commercial development is planned at the corner of Petaluma Hill Road and Rohnert Park Expressway, but it is too early to know exactly what is going to be built,” said Jeffrey Beiswenger, planning manager for the city of Rohnert Park. “It could be any combination of commercial uses (e.g. hotel, retail, office, etc.). We just don’t know until they apply to the city for design approvals.”

Amanda Stone, marketing manager for Brookfield Residential, said that Brookfield has made no decisions at this time for the commercial development.

“Weather has affected the timing of grading, utility and roadway installation,” Stone said when asked about how the recent weather conditions have affected construction progress.

 “Builders are accustomed to rain this time of year, so the rain has slowed down progress a little bit, but not significantly,” Beiswenger said.

Sonoma State students say they have mixed opinions about the development, especially when it comes to the type of housing being built.

“I don’t think there is any problem with a new neighborhood popping up in Rohnert Park,” said senior communication studies major Kayla Harbaugh. “However, it’s so hard to find housing right now. I feel it would have been more acceptable to put a complex there with more affordable housing for students who want to live off campus.” 

“The majority of the development will probably not provide much student housing, since it is mostly intended for purchase by long-term occupants. But the homes will likely provide housing for some university staff and teachers,” Beiswenger said. “Qualifying low-income students may be able to live in the new apartments when built.”

Prices for the University District homes range from the low $500,000’s to $600,000. During site preparation, the city said the new development was very beneficial to people living in the area.

“Sonoma State University students, faculty members and staff will have access to increased local housing opportunities from the University District master planned community, with diverse housing, trails, open space, two public parks (13 acres in total) and a future commercial center,” Beiswenger said. According to Beiswenger, the trail along Hinebaugh Creek is also improved and the project will help create a trail connection between campus and Crane Creek Regional Park.

Richmond American Homes, based in Denver, Westwood-based KB Homes and Pleasanton-based Signature Homes are all working together to build the University District.

The first phase of the project involves constructing three neighborhoods; Cypress, Mulberry and Magnolia. KB Homes is building Cypress, Richmond American Homes is building Mulberry and Magnolia is the work of Signature Homes. 

”The northerly portion of Rohnert Park Expressway will be constructed in 2017, while the existing southerly portion of Rohnert Park Expressway will be reconstructed in 2018 at earliest,” Stone said. “The estimated time of completion for the development is by 2024, though this is subject to market conditions.”

For more information on the University District, visit liveuniversitydistrict.com