For almost a dozen years, the Cloverdale Depot has been awaiting the day passenger trains again roll into town.

It will take at least four more years before the trains arrive, but on Wednesday the City Council took a step toward making the empty station part of its plan for economic rejuvenation and becoming a "transit-oriented city."

The City Council on a 4-0 vote adopted a "Station Area/Downtown Plan" that has been more than a year in the making and the subject of workshops and public hearings.

The goal is to establish the downtown, as well as the station area a half-mile away, as catalysts for citywide economic growth.

"This is an integral part of our economic development and planning over the next generation, or two," Mayor Carol Russell said. "This is part of moving the city ahead so we get funding for what we want, also so we are a modern city."

Cloverdale, she added, can remain a "good, small town, but in the 21st century."

After Highway 101 was relocated to bypass the downtown, the train station and tracks also were moved. The depot was completed in 1998 to the east of the new freeway, where it has sat in relative isolation.

The city has since redesigned Cloverdale Boulevard, the old highway route, and begun to develop a more pedestrian-oriented downtown.

The plan approved Wednesday builds on that vision as well as encouraging affordable housing and higher density downtown.

Consultants say the thrust is to integrate the downtown "and the entire city with the passenger rail experience" beginning with the trains return as early as 2014, according to the timetable of the Sonoma-Marin Area Transit Agency.

The $175,000 plan was paid for primarily with a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and is intended as a guide to development for the next 20 years.

It aims to create a concentrated retail core supported by more downtown residents and office workers within walking distance of the train depot.

To move forward in a slow economy, it suggests public/private partnerships using redevelopment, housing and grant funds to attract new investment and support new and existing businesses.

It envisions "anchors" for the downtown with a civic center on the north. On the southern end could be a potential supermarket or shopping center with housing at the Thyme Square site owned by the city, or at the adjacent Citrus Fair, which is looking for a new location.

A proposed "Cloverdale Greenway" pedestrian and bicycle linear park between the station and downtown would use half of the Citrus Fair Boulevard undercrossing.

But costs and funding for the linear park have not been pinpointed.

Th<CW-26>e plan also suggests an opening in the sound wall between the Tarman housing tract and Citrus Fair Drive so that 320 houses have access to the depot.

</CW><CW-20>Another goal is to require new outlying areas and visitor destination facilities to subsidize a shuttle to the depot in coordination with train schedules</CW>.

The station plan assumes that over the next 20 years, up to 761 dwellings, 220,000 square feet of office and institutional uses, and 120,000 square feet of retail uses could be developed in the plan area, basically within walking distance of the train station.