A rumor that has been circulating through Coddingtown Mall for years finally may be coming to fruition.

The mall's owners, Simon Property Group and Codding Enterprises, have submitted a proposal to tear down the former Gottschalks building at Coddingtown and build a new single-story Target store on the south side of the shopping center.

The proposal was presented to the city on Jan. 31 and is scheduled to go before the city Design Review Board on Feb. 16. No formal decision on the proposal will be made at that time.

"It's just a chance for the Design Review Board to take a look at it and provide feedback," said Bill Rose, senior planner for the city.

City officials welcomed news of the project.

"It's exactly the kind of new development that we were hoping to get in Santa Rosa," said Chuck Regalia, the city's director of community development. "And I'm really optimistic that we'll be able to work out any design issues and help the Simon and Codding group move this forward."

The proposal is the latest step in a transformation at the mall, which struggled during the recession and is still dotted with empty storefronts.

The changes began to accelerate in 2010, when Whole Foods opened a grocery store at the mall after a two-year delay. In April, the mall began a major renovation project that has updated its northern entrance and will add a new BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse later this year. In August, JCPenney completed its own $4 million, eight-month make-over project.

"The remodel has brought a lot of positive attention to the mall," said Lois Codding, vice president of leasing at Codding Enterprises.

She referred other questions about Target to Simon Property Group, which did not return calls for comment.

Target now operates a store on Santa Rosa Avenue, just 3? miles away from Coddingtown, and one in Rohnert Park. Next year, it is scheduled to open a store in Petaluma, where it will anchor Regency Centers' East Washington Place shopping center.

The Minneapolis-based retail chain has considered several locations for a store to serve northern Sonoma County residents in recent years. At various times, it eyed the Gottschalks space, the Kmart site in north Santa Rosa and a new development proposed at the southern edge of Windsor, across the freeway from a Wal-Mart.

Simon and Codding long have been searching for a new retailer to anchor the south side of the shopping center, where the two-story Gottschalks building has sat empty since the department store chain filed bankruptcy in 2009.

A Target representative declined to provide information about the company's plans at Coddingtown.

"Target is actively pursuing opportunities in Santa Rosa at this time. However, we have no additional information to share," said Meghan Mike, spokeswoman for Target.

The 14-page set of preliminary renderings submitted to the city show plans to build two new entrances on the mall's south side that echo the design used for the new entrances on the mall's north side. The red bullseye Target logo would be elevated and visible from Highway 101, and the Target building would sport exterior walls in garrison red, richmond gold and perforated metal.

The proposal also calls for additional landscaping and a reconfiguration of the parking lot to situate the rows perpendicular to, rather than parallel to, the store's south wall.

Mara Shepard, owner of Mara Shepard Designer Jewelry in Coddingtown, welcomed the possibility of a new Target store and the customers it could draw.

"We think it's wonderful. It will bring all kinds of fresh energy to the mall," Shepard said. "The reason I'm okay with it, is they don't have nice jewelry like I do, so there won't be competition."

But other retailers were concerned about the effect that inexpensive Target offerings would have on small specialty retailers.

"We all talk about the competition level, it's going to be pushed up for us," said Miguel Castellanos, associate at Leather N Luggage Park. "And for some of these places Target will be one of those competitors that will push retailers out of their stores."

On Wednesday, construction crews hammered and welded the exterior wall of the future brewhouse. Inside, new modern chandelier lighting hung over recently installed slate and beige carpeting, and a shopper sat in one of the mall's new seating areas typing on a laptop computer.

"I think it will make more people come to Coddingtown," said Amanda Smith, 18, a student at El Molino High School who was shopping at Coddingtown.

"It would be great, we'd love it," said Kathleen Cortez, 48, a paralegal. "This morning I went all the way out to Santa Rosa Avenue, and we live right up the street."

Rose said he thought the project would result in a net reduction of retail space in the mall, but he did not know whether any existing retailers would have to move. The new carpeting and tile that was laid throughout most of the mall stopped a few storefronts away from the doors to the former Gottschalks, in an area where most storefronts are already empty.

"Once it was built and operating, it would enliven that mall," Regalia said. "I'm hoping that it would bring additional shoppers, and that the other businesses in the mall would benefit."