Plans are being dusted off to transform an old fruit packing warehouse in downtown Healdsburg into a combination event space and parking area that would be a permanent home for the Healdsburg Farmers Market.
City Council members on Monday night tentatively agreed to proceed with a five-year-old plan to repurpose the 1920s building on North Street known as the Cerri or Purity property, but also seek public input to consider other opportunities or designs.
The city has been pondering various reuses for the site since acquiring it in 2004 with the idea of demolishing the building and creating a surface parking lot. But preservationists rallied to save the old warehouse, and in 2010 a conceptual plan was developed to keep the façade but remove most of the sides and back of the building.
The intent was for the covered structure to be used for parking and as an “open-air event pavilion” hosting the farmers market, antiques and arts fairs and other festivals.
As an event center, “it would take some pressure off the (Healdsburg) Plaza,” City Councilman Gary Plass said Monday.
The project stalled due to the recession and the subsequent dissolution of the city’s redevelopment agency.
The city’s budget for the coming year, however, includes $1.5 million for design and construction toward “adaptive reuse” of the site.
City officials are recommending that the 2010 plan developed by Healdsburg architects Alan Cohen and Jon Worden be used as the basis for a community-engagement process to consider other uses and affirm a vision for the site.
“It’s important to engage the community that’s paying for it,” Councilwoman Brigette Mansell said.
Community Services Director Mark Themig estimated that a community outreach effort might take two to three months, with construction completed by mid-2016.
The city is looking to solicit a more detailed design proposal from TLCD Architecture, which worked on Santa Rosa’s historic DeTurk round barn.
The 2010 city plan envisioned the Cerri/Purity site as a permanent venue for the farmers market, which currently is held in the gravel parking lot there on Tuesdays and the West Plaza parking lot behind Bear Republic Brewing Co. on Saturdays.
The 1920s-era industrial structure next to the railroad at Grove and West North streets was used for fruit packing when it was known as the “Cerri Brothers Produce Warehouse.”
The building’s width and open interior structure are suitable for parking, according to city planners. Historic pictures of the interior show it was used for parking in the early 20th century.
In more recent years, it was the “Purity Chemical Supply Warehouse and Store.”
Though touted as a symbol of the town’s agricultural heritage, not everyone has always appreciated the old structure.
“To one group, it is a legacy from our agricultural past, a symbol of simpler times, a vestige of the railroad age and a future home for the farmers market,” Healdsburg architect Jon Worden wrote in a background report five years ago. “To another it is an old metal shed, an eyesore, a potential toxic site and a future parking lot.”
On Monday, a few speakers who addressed the City Council said they were glad no one is advocating tearing down the warehouse.
Renee Kiff, board president of the Healdsburg Farmers Market, said her only concern is that a public outreach process to get more input on the site could threaten the existence of the warehouse.