A Rohnert Park office building has been sold to a San Ramon-based company that plans to attract medical tenants to the 69,000 square-foot property that has been half-empty for a year.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The move is another example of efforts in Rohnert Park to fill vacant commercial and industrial space as it looks to stimulate economic development, city officials say. The project is expected to add health care providers to a city that has a lack of medical services.
Meridian Property Company bought the building on State Farm Drive that has been home to Kaiser Permanente since 2003. Another tenant, State Compensation Fund Insurance, vacated it's 35,000 square-feet of office space in the building last year.
Meridian plans to upgrade the lobby to make it look more like a medical building, said chief operating officer John Pollock.
"We hope to refreshen the building, give it a more medical look," he said. "We certainly hope to make it attractive to health care providers in the area."
Rohnert Park has 53 doctors, or 1.2 doctors per 1,000 residents, which is half the national average of 2.4 doctors per 1,000 residents, Pollock said. The city of 41,000 has no hospital.
City councilwoman Gina Belforte, who has described the city as a medical desert, said Rohnert Park would benefit from additional health care options.
"There's a real gap in medical care in our community," she said. "Anytime we can get medical providers to come in, it's a benefit to the whole community."
Rohnert Park officials have been trying to fill vacant commercial and industrial buildings with tenants that create jobs and tax revenue for the city.
City Hall has streamlined the permitting process to attract businesses, said Marilyn Ponton, development services director. Adding doctors will increase the city's business license revenue, she said.
"We've been on a slow and steady upswing and we expect that to continue," she said.
She said that the city planning department works quickly to approve projects. "We don't sit on plans. We move them," she said.
Three years ago, Rohnert Park faced a $6 million budget deficit. Nearly 2,500 private sector jobs had left town.
A flurry of developments in the past 18 months have turned around Rohnert Park's economic outlook, including the $145 million Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, the $800 million Graton Resort and Casino, and the purchase by SunCal Cos. of the vacant State Farm Insurance campus.
Other businesses that have opened recently in Rohnert Park include Walgreens, Chipotle, two fitness chains and chocolate maker Get Lean Foods. Amy's Kitchen, Oxford Suites and Flipside Brewhouse are expected to open sites this year.
Ponton said that medical and dental providers in Rohnert Park have reported an increase in business since the casino opened in November. All of the casino's 2,000 employees receive medical and dental insurance.
(You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocratcom.)