Proposed 8-story apartment project adds to rising skyline for downtown Santa Rosa housing
A newly proposed eight-story housing project slated for downtown Santa Rosa would join two other developments to create one of the most housing-rich blocks in the city and advance a long-held vision of City Hall that calls for denser and taller residential projects to inject more vibrancy into Santa Rosa’s urban core.
The new project, the 425 Humboldt Street Apartments, would add 95 apartments and a private courtyard above two stories of concrete parking, replacing a small office building and parking lot. The half-acre project would slot in next door to the Humboldt Apartments, an affordable housing building with 51 units, and it would back up to the Art House, a four-story development under construction that includes 21 new apartments above an art gallery.
Taken together, the 166 units would rival most other large Santa Rosa housing developments, and the new development would contribute one of the densest residential blocks citywide — right in line with city plans to foster increased housing with denser developments downtown to ease the affordable housing crisis.
However, it’s not a done deal, and numerous Santa Rosa projects have come this far only to stall before construction ever begins.
The project from Los Altos-based IGH Partners optimistically frames the new blue, gray and red wooden U-shaped building as the start of something big. It went last week before the city’s Design Review Board, a panel that aims to safeguard Santa Rosa’s architectural aesthetics.
The building, according to developers’ plans, “represents the beginning of a long-anticipated housing renaissance in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa.”
The new building would feature two towers with six stories of apartments connected by bridges over two bottom stories that would mostly include parking spaces for residents but could also include offices, a fitness area and a pet grooming station, according to city documents. The space above the courtyard between the towers would allow for light to filter into the elevated units, with balconies overlooking Humboldt and Riley streets.
“This is a high-end apartment project, not unlike the ones that have been built down by the ballpark in San Francisco,” said developer Tom Robertson, whose history of Santa Rosa projects includes the renovation of the Barnes & Noble building downtown. Developers said construction was not expected to begin until August at the earliest and declined to disclose the estimated cost of the development.
The new project would be located due south of two other housing projects, one existing and one under development. The affordable 51-unit Humboldt Apartments, featuring the Trecini Winery’s tasting room on its ground floor, opened in 2013 at the corner of Humboldt and Seventh streets. Its neighbor to the west is the Art House, a development with 21 apartments and 15 extended-stay units that is set to be finished in March.
Both projects were developed by the Hugh Futrell Corp., a local firm that is heavily involved in downtown development. Its eponymous founder said he requested and received a “modest” 5-foot setback between his developments and their future neighbor. Futrell said he wished them luck.
“It is a beautiful building,” Futrell said. “Time will tell whether they can build it.”
Numerous Santa Rosa projects with similar airy aspirations have come and gone, or are still hanging around without much tangible change.
“The reality is that this is difficult stuff and until the first bulldozer moves dirt a project is only a theory,” Futrell added.
Of the other developments in the pipeline, five could lead to more than 500 new downtown homes:
- 1 Santa Rosa Ave. (119 units, seven stories)
- 420 Mendocino Ave. (116 units, six stories)
- 556 Ross St. (109 units, eight stories)
- SMART Phase 1 (110 units, six stories)
- The Cannery at Railroad Square (129 units, six stories)
The city has for decades sought to spur more residential development on downtown blocks that are closer to transit hubs, with a new batch of incentives meant to lure developers, including eased height limits and parking requirements.
Santa Rosa doesn’t track existing residential density, but its plans illustrate where the city envisions larger housing projects to go, said Bill Rose, the city’s interim deputy planning director. The city’s latest downtown plan puts the block at the southern edge at the highest level of allowable development — a zone forming a rough circle around Old Courthouse Square.
In addition to streamlining permitting rules, city staff work closely with developers on a project-by-project basis to help developments through the process, Rose said.