Railroad Square developer gets $15 million boost

The developer of a proposed Railroad Square food and wine center has secured $15 million in grants and federal stimulus funds to keep the project on track.

With the help of Santa Rosa officials, the developers of the ambitious housing and commercial project were awarded an $11.4 million state grant to be used primarily for street, water and sewer work.

The city agreed to kick in another $3.7 million of its share of anticipated federal stimulus money to help with infrastructure and environmental clean-up.

Developers hope to break ground on the first phase of the project ? the retail portion, some housing and a parking garage ? in about a year.

?It?s very catalytic to have these funds,? developer John Stewart said Tuesday. The money helps close a funding gap in the $180 million project, which is planned in three phases, he said.

?We consider this to be an economic catalyst for all of the downtown,? Santa Rosa Mayor Susan Gorin said.

The grant money awarded by the state ?is critical for this project. It is very difficult to get development going at the current time. Without this funding, this project would probably not be moving forward,? she said.

Stewart, part of the development partnership known as New Railroad Square LLC, is proposing to build a 40,000-square-foot public market food and wine center and a 10,000-square-foot retail center. He described it as similar to Ox Bow Public Market in Napa.

That would be the first phase of the project, along with a parking garage and 68 units of affordable housing.

In all, Stewart hopes to build 279 housing units, both affordable and market rate, by using an adjacent two acres and incorporating the walls of a century-old cannery.

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