Luxury hotel planned for high-profile downtown Petaluma lot

Downtown Petaluma may be home to Wine Country's next luxury accommodations, and developers are hoping the plan will be embraced, unlike recent swanky hotel proposals in Sonoma and Healdsburg.

In both of those tourist-dependent cities, plans for new hotels have been met with controversy recently. A group of Healdsburg residents is considering seeking a ballot measure limiting the size of hotels, similar to a measure in Sonoma that was defeated last month.

As Petaluma works to attract more tourists, a new hotel likely won't generate as much opposition, at least related to the use and number of rooms.

But its modern stylings will have to face the gantlet in a town that embraces its Victorian west side and simple farm roots.

To be called The Petaluman, the 54-room hotel has been in the works for several years and has undergone several changes in response to changing economic times and public input.

The four-story luxury boutique hotel is planned for Petaluma Boulevard South at B Street on what currently is a long-vacant lot.

Plans submitted last month by the property owner and architect, Ross Jones of Petaluma, show a contemporary design with curved glass balconies facing the boulevard, an angular solar-panel roof, vertical tilework and a small plaza at the entrance, whose focal point is an 18-foot-tall metal sculpture.

Jones describes the $18 million project as "a legacy, landmark property intended to serve the community as a contemporary hub of hospitality and innovation" and provide "an extraordinary, state-of-the-art respite for visitors."

Jones' family has owned the site, across from the Theatre District, since 1963. It formerly housed a Chevron gas station but has been vacant for several years.

If the planning process goes smoothly, Jones said he hopes to open the hotel in December 2015 and employ about 24 full-time workers. Its rooms will start out at about $200 a night, generating between $250,000 and $300,000 annually to the city in bed taxes.

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