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Proposal would put 244 apartments on former Rohnert Park stadium grounds


The company behind the only residential housing developments in Rohnert Park in the past 12 years is back with a project that would punctuate a sore chapter for the city.

A.G. Spanos Corp. is proposing a 244-unit apartment complex on a 10-acre property that formerly housed the Sonoma County Crushers' stadium.

"We've always had good luck" in Rohnert Park, said Thomas Allen, a company vice president.

Since 2000, the Stockton-based firm -- its founder, Alex G. Spanos, owns the San Diego Chargers -- has built 176 high-end apartments on Golf Course Drive on the city's east side and 230 others on Rohnert Park Expressway west of Highway 101.

The city's Planning Commission takes up the application Thursday. Planning staff have recommended approval of the project, which would consist of nine 3-story buildings and require the company to build a stretch of Dowdell Avenue.

The project, for which A.G. Spanos would buy the 10 acres from Redwood Equities, would put another notch in a painful process for the city, which for years has wanted a shopping center and other retail businesses in the area.

Rohnert Park in 2003 sold the option on 40 acres -- including the stadium land that A.G. Spanos would purchase and build on -- to Redwood Equities. The company was led by three prominent local businessmen planning commercial projects there: Dennis Hunter, James Ratto and Clem Carinalli, whose real estate empire crumbled in 2008.

The city was hoping to reap property and sales taxes from the developments it foresaw there. But that never happened, in large part because Redwood Equities sold more than 270 neighboring acres it also owned to the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. The land, north of the stadium parcel, became the tribe's reservation and is the site of a casino now being built.

The city also expected to collect $8 million from Redwood Equities through the option deal. But to date it has received just $2.6 million. Residential development would be at least some consolation, officials said.

"I guess you would say that this is good news for the city," Councilman Jake Mackenzie said.

"There'd be an increase in property tax revenues; it will provide a place for people who may want to live close to where they might be working over there," Mackenzie said.

It is also possible that if A.G. Spanos buys the property, the city would get the rest of the option payment.

"The city has been in real estate negotiations with Redwood Equities on that matter and how it would play out," City Manager Gabe Gonzalez said.

City officials also are planning how to build out a 90-acre undeveloped neighborhood adjacent to the reservation. And A.G. Spanos officials said they were specifically hoping to house workers from the casino and other commercial developments there.

"This is a good place to be in terms of the future job growth there," Allen said.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Susan Adams said she likes the company's track record.

"The projects they've done so far have been very, very nicely done, to the highest quality and standard," Adams said.

But she added, "this is a flat document with some very nice pictures. Until we get into the planning commission . . . it really doesn't come to life."