Cotati today is to break ground on a downtown train depot at East Cotati Avenue and Santero Way.

Officials hope the transit center, with an adjoining plaza, will link Cotati to multiple forms of transit and will create a busy hub near the city's center.

"It will be a significant benefit to our citizens," Mayor Susan Harvey said in a statement.

The project is a partnership between the city, Sonoma County Transit agency and Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit.

It will be built in phases, finishing by the end of 2013, and eventually will include retail storefronts.

The first phase is to cost $1.6 million, and the city will finance that with a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The remaining phases are projected to cost $2.9 million, to be covered by Sonoma County Transit.

"SMART is excited to see our local partners breaking ground for the plaza and depot building," SMART spokesman Matt Stevens said. "This, along with our track construction and crossing upgrades, represents another step forward in delivering passenger rail service to the North Bay."