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Two Windsor housing projects stalled as builder defaults on one, fails to advance other

A pair of long-planned housing projects in downtown Windsor have ground to a halt after the developer of the two large multifamily complexes failed to secure financing and defaulted on one of the sites, leaving the second development in limbo as well.

Vintage Oaks, on 18 acres just north of the Town Green and the Oliver’s Market shopping complex, was approved in 2016 for 387 apartments but has yet to get underway. In 2019, the Town Council granted a two-year extension so Hollywood-based developer Bob Bisno had more time to find funding for the estimated $150 million project.

It remains “shovel-ready,” needing only building permits to begin. But with the city’s extension set to expire in May, Bisno was unable to shore up the financing, according to town officials. His lender has since claimed the property, said Peter Stanley, principal with ArchiLOGIX, a Santa Rosa consulting firm that provided design and planning work on Vintage Oaks.

New York-based Mosaic Real Estate Investors stepped in and is reviewing potential builders. The Vintage Oaks development stands as the largest single housing project approved in town limits since Windsor was incorporated more than 28 years ago. Plans call for a mix of one- , two- and three-bedroom apartments in buildings of up to four stories, and at a variety of market-rate rents.

“They are looking to either sell the project or partner with a developer on the project that’s been approved,” said Town Manager Ken MacNab. “I think it’s a great project, and think the council would like to see housing downtown happen. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed that Mosaic can bring in a developer for this project.”

The other Bisno project, Mill Creek, calls for 360 condominiums on 20 acres south of Windsor River Road along the future SMART tracks. The estimated $150 million development, approved with one- , two- and three-bedroom units for sale in buildings of up to three stories, may end up instead as market-rate rentals. It has stalled as well.

The lack of progress represents a setback for Windsor’s efforts to advance high-density housing development in its downtown. With SMART expecting to extend commuter rail service by the end of this year, the town still hopes to see the transit-oriented projects come to fruition as approved.

“It is a little disappointing that these projects have not moved forward to construction given how long they’ve been on our books. We’d all love to see the housing be built, not only because housing is needed, but because it will bring benefits to our downtown as we’ve envisioned,” MacNab said.

Phone messages left for Bruce Davidson, Mosaic Real Estate’s executive managing director, went unreturned over two days last week. In California, the group has property and developments in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, and Riverside and Napa counties, according to its website.

MacNab said Mosaic representatives have provided the town frequent updates since taking ownership of the Vintage Oaks site in the fall, and so far have not inquired about seeking another extension on the project. If the standing approvals lapse next year, though, new plans and approvals would have to be drawn up for a revised project. Housing has been envisioned for the site as part of the adjacent Bell Village shopping center for more than a decade.

Bisno’s Mill Creek project, which remains under his control, was approved by the Town Council in 2019. The development still needs building permits as well to begin construction, and its current approval expires at the end of June if a town extension is not sought or granted.

“That one is coming up pretty quick to have to do something with it,” said Vice Mayor Sam Salmon. “It’s the same developer, and there’s been no activity.”

The financing prospects appear less certain, given what transpired with Bisno’s other project, town officials said. Messages left for Bisno on his cellphone and at his West Hollywood office went unreturned last week.

Stanley, whose architectural firm also worked on designing Mill Creek, said he had no new information about the project. This summer, he said it would take about two years to complete once ground is broken.

Neither housing development was expected to be finished before the middle of 2023, Stanley said at the time. But with Mill Creek’s approval expiring in just six months, it remains unclear if or when construction could begin.

“You see higher-density housing projects being constructed in other communities in Sonoma County, so I’m confident the project can be built and can be financed,” MacNab said of Mill Creek. “What I don’t know about, and what introduces a little bit of uncertainty for me, is I just don’t know enough about the developer’s financial situation, commitment, or how he’s managed the property and project to know if they’re going to be ready. I’m sure he’d love to build the project and has invested a lot of money in the project, which has been on books since 2014, if not earlier. I just don’t know when they’ll be able to move forward.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

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