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At 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Sprouts Farmers Market will be the first tenant to open its doors at the new East Washington Place shopping center, even as construction continues at other storefronts.

The highly anticipated assortment of stores will be the largest shopping center in Petaluma, featuring about 291,000 square feet of retail space. It's opening after a nearly decade-long effort to get the project, contentious for its size and the corporate nature of many of its largest tenants, approved and built.

Sprouts, the first store to open, recently topped a list of the nation's fastest-growing retail chains in the natural and organic supermarket segment.

The Petaluma location will be the first Sprouts in Sonoma County and will offer a mix of natural foods and conventional products as well as bulk items.

Jesse Elliott, Sprouts general manager, explained that the store's design puts the bulk and produce in the center portion of the store, with the more traditional aisles off to the side, in the style of a farmers market.

The second business scheduled to open is Dick's Sporting Goods, the largest U.S.-based, full-line sporting goods retailer with 520 stores nationwide.

Dick's opening weekend will run June 7-9, with giveaways, vendor presentations and an appearance by San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

The anchor store, Target, is set to open on July 28. The store will be roughly 135,000 square feet and employ about 200 people.

Other tenants that have signed leases at the shopping center include TJ Maxx/Homegoods, BevMo, JP Morgan Chase Bank, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Ulta Beauty, Sleep Train, Panera, Pacific Dental, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Sprint, Subway, Sport Clips, Cheese Steak, and the cupcakery Sift.

The developer, Regency Centers, says it is working with the city to mitigate traffic issues tied to the various store openings that will be phased in during the coming months. The sites under construction will be fenced off and access to the open stores will be marked with signage and supplemented with traffic personnel.

Customers will be able to use the East Washington street entrance, which will open Monday, May 27, or enter via Kenilworth Drive.

Pat Conklin, CEO of the Sonoma Fairgrounds, which borders the shopping center, is prepared for additional traffic during the Sonoma-Marin Fair, which will be held June 19 through 23.

"Fortunately, not everything is going to be open by fair time, so it's kind of like a 'soft opening' for us," Conklin said. "It will let us see how the two stores that are open will affect traffic and help us gauge things."

Molly Krawczyk, co-owner of Play Dog Play, a doggie day care and overnight boarding facility located just across Kenilworth Drive from the new shopping center, is generally positive about the impending changes.

"We've been here seven years and it's going from a very rural environment where hawks glide overhead to one that will be a highly trafficked destination," she said. Krawczyk added that she will miss the tranquility of the empty field — the former site of Kenilworth Junior High that sat vacant for nearly 10 years — but she gives high marks for the center's aesthetics.

She also sees it as a plus for her customers: "They can drop their dog off and pop over to shop, pick up something for dinner or have a snack with the kids. Overall, I think it will be good."

While residents and nearby businesses prepare for the changes, staff at Sprouts are busily preparing the store for its opening next week.

Sprouts has a full slate of events and activities planned, with specials and announcements made available through print publications and social media outlets. The company has already established an active social media presence in Petaluma: its Facebook page for the Petaluma store already has nearly 3,000 "likes." The store will soon see if those likes translate into customers.

(Contact Dyann Espinosa at argus@arguscourier.com.)