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Santa Rosa mixed-use building may become apartments

One of downtown Santa Rosa's mixed-use buildings soon may be converted completely to residential apartments after failing to house a single commercial tenant in seven years.

If granted by the city, the conversion would turn the empty ground floor at 615 Healdsburg Ave. into 12 one-bedroom apartments.

"The market has simply said over and over on this one, this needs to be a residential building," said Rob O'Dea, a spokesman for the owner, the Wolff Company, a housing development firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Both O'Dea and others suggested the conversion doesn't mean mixed-use development has fallen out of favor.

"There's nothing wrong with mixed-use as long as you put it in the right place," said Hugh Futrell, who has developed several mixed-use projects in Santa Rosa. What successful developments have in common, he said, is "they're located in a well-traveled commercial street in a commercial district."

Once known as the Moore Building, the $15 million mixed-use project opened in 2007 a block from College Avenue. The building drew praise from city leaders and advocates of city-centered growth for combining ground-floor commercial space with apartments above.

The development followed large mixed-use projects in Windsor and Petaluma, as well as major proposals that were never built in both Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.

The Moore apartments proved popular, but no stores or restaurants ever leased any of the ground floor space, apparently because it was too far from the downtown core. The original owners fell behind in payments to their lender, and the building went through foreclosure in 2010.

The Wolff Company bought the building the next year and renamed it Six 1 Five.

Working with local commercial real estate brokers, the new owner became "very creative and aggressive" in efforts to attract tenants, O'Dea said. Even so, it never found a retailer willing to sign a lease.

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