Developer eyes vacant land near Petaluma rail depot

An international development company has purchased three vacant acres near Petaluma's planned downtown train station, sparking discussion of what kind of development is appropriate at such a significant location.

Pacifica Companies, based in San Diego, has ventures in India, Latin America and in 22 states. It purchased the three acres at 215 Weller St. in December after local owners lost the property in foreclosure.

Several years ago a project called Haystack Marketplace proposed 100 residential units and a European-style shopping plaza with 45,000 square feet of commercial space, including an open-air market. But the project stalled after initial talks with the city.

Pacifica closed the deal Dec. 3 for $900,000, according to county property records.

Pacifica spokesman Scott Russell said plans for the site are very preliminary, but probably will include residential housing — condominiums or multi-family units — on the upper floors and mixed-use retail on the ground floor.

The company is also discussing a partnership with Petaluma Ecumenical Properties for low-income, senior housing, said Russell, the company's director of acquisition and development.

"It's a very dynamic site," he said.

City planners are hopeful the company's concepts for the property can turn a bleak stretch of property into a bustling connector between the train station, the river and downtown's restaurants and shopping opportunities.

The property is nearly an entire city block, bounded by East Washington, East D, Copeland and Weller streets. It's adjacent to the SMART property that currently is being used for rail storage as the rail line construction begins in Santa Rosa.

A century ago, the property was a bustling rail yard for the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad Company. Agricultural and other products were transferred between rail and river for transport.

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