Sonoma auto lot eyed for market project

  • Property in Sonoma on the corner of Broadway and East MacArthur that is being looked at for future development, April 24, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

A rundown auto lot at Sonoma's southern limits is being eyed for a development that would include a marketplace akin to downtown Napa's Oxbow Public Market, housing local artisans, farmers and other food purveyors.

The 1.86-acre property at 870 Broadway, priced at $1.9 million, has been in and out of escrow for nearly four years as a parade of developers considered projects ranging from a Walgreens or Trader Joe's, to an office complex, to a high-end hotel.

Now a Southern California company is proposing a mix of retail uses and housing. The marketplace concept, which was proposed by residents at a January public forum, "is still the centerpiece of the project," said Owen Smith, president of Del Mar-based SunLever Corporation.

"It's a great location and a great city," said Smith, formerly an executive with the company that considered building a hotel on the property but then pulled out and dropped its option on the property.

A "small boutique hotel is an option" but, as yet, just one of many, he said.

Both city officials and residents consider the corner lot at Broadway and East MacArthur Street a key location at one of Sonoma's main entry points.

"It's an eyesore now," said Larry Barnett, a former mayor. "It's not officially designated as a gateway zone in the city's general plan, but it's a large piece of property obviously in a state of transition."

The project is not yet on the city's official agenda. Smith said he hopes to meet with planning staff soon and present his plans. The project is not fully fleshed out, he said, which means that investors also are still being lined up.

"One depends on the other to some degree," Smith said. "We're working on the options and trying to get the best investor group and best concept together." He said some "local groups" are interested in taking part in the project. He declined to share names.

City leaders said that to the degree Smith's plans are known, they appear to have potential.

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