Developer, SMART remain at odds over details of Railroad Square project

  • Condominium construction that incorporates the walls of the century-old cannery in the city's historic Railroad Square has been delayed because of disputes between the developer and the agency seeking to create a transit hub and build a mixed use project next door. Shot on Friday May 11, 2007. ( Press Democrat / Charlie Gesell )

Massive brick walls remaining from a century-old cannery in Santa Rosa stand ready to enclose a condominium project seven years in the works.

The developer had hoped to begin construction a year ago with the first residents moving in a year from now. But the bellwether for redevelopment in the city's historic Railroad Square area is mired in disputes between the developer and the agency seeking to create a transit hub and build a mixed-use project next door.

The main problem is a 3,900-square-foot section of the old cannery's loading dock. The developer, Santa Rosa Canners, must purchase the chunk of concrete from the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District. There also is an issue of emergency vehicle access to the condominiums across SMART property.

"We've been debating on this for a couple of years. It's very frustrating," said John Stewart, the San Francisco developer leading the project.

SMART officials said they remain hopeful of settling their differences, despite failing to reach agreement following the latest mediation session this week.

"SMART wants to settle this and we are anxious to find a compromise position," said Lillian Hames, the agency's general manager.

At issue is the wide disparity between a pair of property value appraisals for the section of loading dock. SMART seeks $250,000, but the developer contends it is only worth $10,000.

Stewart, and partner Richard Devine, said SMART's leaders are being unreasonable because the developer already agreed to preserve the two walls and loading dock as architectural links to the building's historic use as a cannery.

They also must spend $160,000 to repair the loading dock as a pedestrian access to the condominiums.

"We're stuck because of the access issue on the loading dock," Stewart said.

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