Developer prepares to start Target center in Petaluma

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.

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