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Big changes ahead for Sebastopol

  • Bernard Aldridge is redeveloping The Barlow, on the corner of Sebastopol Avenue and Morris Street, in Sebastopol into an artisanal center, featuring art, agricultural, retail and light industrial business.

People heading west on Highway 12 into Sebastopol are still greeted by the rundown remains of the defunct Barlow processing plant — a relic of the town's historic apple industry.

Now a developer is making another attempt to revitalize the town's rundown cannery district with major plans to refocus the area into a hub of boutique manufacturers and redraw city streets to better improve traffic.

Barney Aldridge, who acquired the property in 2005, has already signed up several art, food and beverage producers. This week, he announced an agreement to add Kosta Browne Winery, which makes one of Sonoma County's most coveted pinot noirs. If approved by city officials, it would be Sebastopol's only bonded winery by the time of its scheduled opening in fall 2012.

The proposed 220,000-square-foot complex, dubbed The Barlow, will include an artist studio, several spaces for food and beverage startups, a bocce court, a children's playground and space for the Sebastopol Farmer's Market, Aldridge said.

"West County has got all these great producers of artisan food, art, and just wonderful things," Aldridge said. "So we came up with a farming-industrial design based on Sebastopol's past."

A smaller version of the artisanal center was approved by city officials in December 2010. The addition of Kosta Browne means the project must return to the city for review, a process that will take a minimum of five to six months.

Kosta Browne, which ships most of its limited production wine direct to members and has a waiting list of 15,000 people, would anchor the development on the eastern edge of Sebastopol just north of Highway 12.

"We're really excited to keep our winery in West County," said Michael Browne, a co-founder of the wine label. "We're basically building twice as much space as we need so we never have to move again."

Kosta Browne, which produced about 14,000 cases of wine last year, plans to increase production about 20 percent during the next five years as it begins selling chardonnay, Browne said.

Others who have signed leases include Woodfour Brewing Co., a boutique beer maker looking to expand into its first commercial space and have a scaled-down restaurant; Bliss Bakery, a Santa Rosa-based maker of gluten-free products that wants to add a second larger oven and retail space; and Mama Tina's Ravioli, which currently is trying to manage booming demand for its homemade pasta from rented space in the Guerneville Elementary School kitchen.

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