Futrell gets extension to buy former AT&T building in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa has given a developer more time to complete the purchase of the long-vacant former AT&T building downtown.

The city's redevelopment agency had hoped to complete the $1.9 million sale of the building — which the agency purchased for $3 million in 2007 — to developer Hugh Futrell by year's end.

Futrell and his partners hope to transform the empty five-story concrete eyesore into a 10-story glass-clad mixed-use tower dubbed Museum on the Square. It's the city's highest profile, highest priority downtown development project.

But some thorny planning issues put the project behind schedule last year, requiring a second six-month escrow extension, which was granted Dec. 20. The sale agreement now gives Futrell until June 29 to complete the transaction.

Futrell says he probably won't need that much time. He and his partners — who have invested $1 million in the project to date — now expect to complete the purchase and move forward with construction by the end of April.

"We would not be making this kind of investment in the asset if we were not still seeing a green light for the project," Futrell said.

Redevelopment agency officials say they are comfortable granting the extension because Futrell is making significant progress toward his goals.

Design drawings are complete and under review by the city, and Futrell has pre-leased 75 percent of the commercial office space planned for the building, said city redevelopment specialist Frank Kasimov.

"Those are substantial steps. He has made a very large investment in making this a reality," Kasimov said.

The project ran into its first setback in 2010, when the city took months to decide whether to allow future tenants to drive through the city transit mall to access the building's parking. The city ultimately agreed to grant the access, and the change forced a minor redesign.

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