Demolition begins on downtown Rohnert Park

The development of the future downtown of Rohnert Park, called Station Avenue, is well underway as the State Farm campus is now being torn down piece by piece to create a central area for the community of Rohnert Park to gather. 

David Bouquillon, president of Laulima Development and the sole developer of the project, could not be any more ecstatic with the progress of Station Avenue. 

“It’s been our experience leading some of the Bay Area’s most notable mixed-use developments that, with a 30-acre site, it’s important to create enough critical mass to make an impactful sense of place,” Bouquillon said. 

Demolition crews work to dismantle the State Farm campus on Friday, Feb. 8.

Demolition crews work to dismantle the State Farm campus on Friday, Feb. 8.

The downtown area will be constructed into two parts, consisting of an urban core and residential blocks. The urban core is being developed first and will consist of 140,000 square feet of ground floor retail, restaurants, and entertainment, while 130,000 square feet is dedicated to creative office space. 

These areas, along with a 156-room upscale hotel, will be scheduled to open in the Fall of 2020, while residential move-ins will start around the end of the first quarter in 2021. Bouquillon also said remaining units will be completed in the third quarter of 2021.

The Mayor of Rohnert Park, Gina Belforte, said that the commercial area will be started first. This includes a brand-new brewery, retail stores, and the hotel. She said that there is no reason for the project to be delayed right now, despite having a few days of heavy rainfall. 

The project timeline is aggressive, but she has confidence that the development team will meet their deadline. Nevertheless, excitement for the scale of the project is palpable. “It is so big, you could have three football games going on at the same time. That’s how big the State Farm office building was,” said Belforte. 

Don Schwartz, the assistant city manager of Rohnert Park, has been collaborating with the developers of the project and wants to bring businesses to the city that residents want. He said that See’s Candy might have an interest in being one of their first businesses for the downtown area, since the company is expanding and Rohnert Park does not currently have an outlet. “We are the most business-friendly city in the county. I can say that with confidence,” Schwartz said. 

Bouquillon believes in general that university administration at Sonoma State has been supportive of Station Avenue. He and his development company have suggested a bookstore for Sonoma State students or an alumnus office, but no commitment has been made from the university at this time. 

He also expressed alternatives for student housing. “I’ve been very vocal that Station Avenue can help solve for the lack of facility and student housing,” Bouquillon said. “Although SSU has not expressed interest, we’re in active discussions with other local campuses who see Station Avenue as a benefit to fulfilling their housing needs and being part of a vibrant downtown community [alongside] SMART was critical.”

The importance of being environmentally friendly in the downtown area cannot be overstated. Schwartz talked about the residents’ concerns on the loss of the redwood trees that were taken down at the site. 

The number of trees planted on Station Avenue will actually exceed the number of trees taken down, with species including the London Planetree, Coast Live Oak, and California Buckeye trees. He also said that the developer is planning on reusing some of the wood from the redwoods that were taken down to donate to local school wood shops. 

“As a progressive development company, we’re always looking to incorporate sensible environmental designs and materials in our projects,” Bouquillon said. “For instance, some of the exiting trees will be repurposed as potential street furniture, electric car charging stations will be placed throughout the development and energy efficient devices will be used thwroughout Station Avenue.”

Traffic has also been of concern for the future. Schwartz said there will be improvements to the key intersections to mitigate the impacts and that the project is designed to encourage walking, cycling, and using the SMART train. “Regarding traffic, we’ve examined this in depth. A downtown area by its very nature creates traffic, and there will be more.”

However, Belforte talked about traffic in the area and said that she believes it will not be a problem because Rohnert Park Expressway was built as a result from the 1,200 employees at the height of State Farm’s heyday. She said the use of transit and bus stops will also help the flow of traffic. 

Station Avenue continues to progress quickly, and the results will surely be surprising. Belforte wants the area to be family friendly, while also acting as an alternative so residents do not have to leave Rohnert Park. 

“I hate having to go outside of town to do other things,” Belforte said. “I’m looking forward to a place where our Rohnert Park residents can hang out together.”