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Amy’s withdrawal from Scannell site likely due to ‘timeline issues’

A spokesperson said the prepared-food and restaurant company’s needs “changed and evolved based on a more flexible workplace structure.”|

A week after the public learned of the decision by Amy’s Kitchen to pull out of one of Petaluma’s most prominent downtown developments, city planners have confirmed that the organic food giant’s plans for a riverfront world headquarters appeared shaky as early as last summer.

But Petaluma planning officials say the withdrawal won’t shutter the overall project, a 40-acre, mixed-use development promising to transform a long-neglected eastside portion of the Petaluma River.

The withdrawal by Amy’s Kitchen from the so-called Scannell Mixed-Use Development site was publicly revealed in a February Planning Commission meeting, taking commissioners by surprise. Principal planner Emmanuel Ursu said, while developers previously alluded to complications with Amy’s Kitchen, details had not been made clear until this past winter.

“(Scannell developers) mentioned they were in conversation with Amy’s back in the fall of 2021. I asked if they could divulge more and at that point they said ‘no, their attorneys are working on the details.’” Ursu said in a Wednesday afternoon phone call.

In fact, until Scannell confirmed of Amy’s withdrawal from the plans in January, Ursu said staff continued to process the original application. He added that under Amy’s agreement with Scannell, the restaurant chain had a way out “if certain milestones hadn’t been reached in a certain time period.” Ursu said that most likely meant Amy’s wished to set up in their new headquarters within one year, when the project would likely not be completed for up to five years.

In a statement emailed to the Argus-Courier, Amy’s Kitchen spokesperson Paul Schiefer attributed the company’s pivot to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Amy’s Kitchen’s new office space search started well before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schiefer said in the emailed statement. “Since then, like many other companies, our needs changed and evolved based on a more flexible workplace structure. We’ve since reimagined how we will use the office space moving forward.”

Amy's Kitchen leadership was not available for an interview, and a company representative did not respond to email inquiries regarding whether the food maker, founded in Petaluma, has found a new home for its headquarters, or if that headquarters would be located within Sonoma County.

Walker Williams, who leads the development application for Scannell Properties, didn't immediately return email or phone messages Wednesday.

The company’s withdrawal from the Scannell plans follows a complaint filed Jan. 20 by five employees at its Santa Rosa facility who claimed they sustained injuries due to poor work conditions.

In December, the vegetarian food vendor sold three of its production facilities in Santa Rosa, Oregon and Idaho to New York-based real estate investment trust W.P. Carey Inc. for $144 million. Amy’s Kitchen then leased the buildings back for 30 years in the deal.

In his statement, Schiefer said that recent activity did not play a part in the company’s decision to nix its original headquarter plans.

Ursu said Scannell wishes to proceed with no physical changes to the commercial development plans on the site and will continue to market the space to other companies who wish to lease the space. But it is likely that changes to design would occur after next steps are determined during the Planning Commission’s meeting next Tuesday.

The 40-acre project located just south of the Committee on the Shelterless’ Mary Isaak Center was proposed in 2020, and entailed 147,300 square feet of commercial space designed originally for Amy’s Kitchen. The commercial footprint would have included office space, a test kitchen and possible childcare facility for employees. It also included plans for a three-story parking garage with about 400 parking spaces.

The entire, mixed-use site calls for 195 single-family homes, up to 80 affordable apartment units, 95 single-family motor court homes and 100 townhomes, as well as public park space and a mixed-use trail.

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at amelia.parreira@arguscourier.com or 707-521-5208.

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