Back on track?

  • Construction work continues on the Whole Foods Market at Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa, Thursday June 24, 2010. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

Coddingtown has been waiting years for a shot in the arm.

It now appears to be coming in the form of an expansive Whole Foods grocery store, planned for a late September opening.

The store brings with it the potential for new vitality and increased foot traffic to the half-century-old shopping center in west Santa Rosa that now may be best known for its vacant spaces and scarcity of shoppers.

Merchants there are pointing to the upscale market as the chance for a new era.

"We're anxiously awaiting Whole Foods," said Lynn Elmer, the manager at Mara Shepard Designer Jewelry.

The opening comes as the mall's developer pushes to transform Coddingtown and its surroundings into a hub of "transit oriented development" that would involve new residences, businesses and a commuter rail station.

"We think there's nowhere to go but up," said Brad Baker, CEO of Codding Enterprises, the company that since 2005 has co-owned Coddingtown with shopping mall giant Simon Property Group of Indianapolis.

The improvement efforts could take a decade, Baker acknowledged, but he sees opportunity to turn the Coddingtown area into "a very connected, very energetic, fun, vibrant place where people could live and work."

The nature of Coddingtown's future likely will depend on potential developments outside the mall.

Transit officials recently voted to study building a commuter rail station on Guerneville Road less than a half-mile west of Coddingtown.

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