The developers behind a long-delayed Target shopping center in Petaluma say they're poised to begin construction on the 34-acre project in the New Year.

"We are going to break ground in the first quarter of next year," said Ryan Nickelson, vice president of investments at Regency Centers, a Florida-based developer that operates more than 20 shopping centers in Northern California. "I am excited to get started."

In 2004, Regency paid $22 million for the land, then home to Kenilworth Junior High, in a deal that allowed Petaluma City Schools to build a new junior high school.

At the time, Regency hoped to finish the East Washington Place development by 2007. But a series of factors, including city reviews, uncertainty over water supplies, a revision of the city's general code and lawsuits from neighbors, conspired to create delay after delay.

But last week the City Council gave its final blessing for the project, allowing Regency to soon begin pulling permits.

"I'm glad we can finally punch this across the goal line for one of the most vetted projects in the history of Petaluma," Councilman Mike Harris said. "It's definitely a shot in the arm that we need financially."

Councilwoman Tiffany Renee cast the sole dissenting vote, saying Monday that big-box stores don't bring good jobs, they often eliminate them.

Nickelson said the start of construction on site improvements like parking, gutters and lights will depend on the weather. Construction of the actual buildings is likely to begin next summer, he said. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2013.

The drawn-out timeline may have benefited the city, Mayor David Glass said. Originally, Circuit City was slated to occupy one of the stores and a Borders book store was a potential tenant. Both chains liquidated in the economic downturn

"We'd have been in real trouble with Target and two big white elephants sitting there empty," Glass said.

Regency's plans call for the center to be anchored by a 140,000-square-foot Target store. Target is in escrow to buy its site.

Regency is also in negotiations to bring in TJ Maxx/HomeGoods, Dick's Sporting Goods and a Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store.

"We are working on leases with those tenants," Nickelson said. "And we hope to have them signed here pretty soon."

Glass said the development is expected to generate more than $10 million in one-time impact fees. He put the future financial benefits in terms of seasonal shopping. After this Christmas, there should be just one more holiday season where Petalumans descend on Target stores in other cities, depriving the city of much-needed sales tax dollars.

For youth baseball players, an extra upside of the deal with Regency will become apparent next month when three new ball fields open at Petaluma Junior High. They will replace the old Carter Field at the Kenilworth site.

Editor's Note: The East Washington Place development in Petaluma is expected to generate $10 million in impact fees for the city. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the money had already been received. Additionally, the school built with funds from selling the land to developers is the new Kenilworth Junior High. The school was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this story.