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Near the Dollar Tree on Sebastopol Road in Roseland, a swath of concrete has been coming to life as artists and community members transform the formerly barren stretch into an explosion of color.

The site of a former Albertsons store is surrounded by little more than a parking lot, and doesn’t look like much at the moment. But the evolution of the space, which is now being used in part as a makeshift basketball court, is a small reflection of the much greater — and long-awaited — public uses that will result once the site becomes a mixed-use development with an open plaza, housing, civic building and market.

Eventually, the colorfully-painted groundwork will be torn up for that project. However, artists there on a recent afternoon said their work was intended to temporarily promote a more communal environment — similar to what will happen on a permanent basis once the plaza is built.

“It’s kind of a way to get everyone excited and please the neighborhood while there’s a transition,” Daniel Doughty, a lead artist with Santa Rosa-based Artstart, which was hired by the Sonoma County Community Development Commission to work with the public on the site.

The commission owns the roughly 7-acre Roseland Village shopping center site that includes the Dollar Tree and land where the Albertsons once stood. The commission purchased the property in 2011 in anticipation of allowing a mixed-use development there, long a goal of community and county leaders.

In 2010, a San Francisco affordable housing developer proposed building a mixed-use project at the site, but those plans were later scrapped. The county began moving similar plans forward again in 2014 after securing the return of redevelopment funds from the state, according to Jim Leddy, special projects director for the community development commission.

The county selected Foster City-based MidPen Housing to develop the project in early 2016, and officials have hosted several public meetings since to incorporate community input. Now, MidPen is planning to submit documents to the county in early April that will undergo extensive review from planning officials and regulators, according to Scott Johnson, the organization’s director of housing development.

MidPen’s vision includes a 1-acre plaza and 175 housing units, with 100 of those offered at market rates and 75 affordable to residents with low, very low and extremely low incomes, according to Johnson.

Additionally, the Roseland Village plans call for construction of a new civic building that would contain permanent space for a county library branch and the Boys and Girls Club. Another aspect of the development would be a “mercado” designed to be a hub for local food-related vendors and foster community entrepreneurship.

“The idea here is to focus very strongly and very proactively on Roseland-based small businesses, food-based businesses,” Johnson said. “There’s a phenomenal network of local food-based entrepreneurs in the Roseland area that we want to help support.”

MidPen hopes to have its development plans approved and environmental clearance secured by the end of December, according to Johnson. The first phase of construction, which will include infrastructure work and the public plaza, should break ground in late spring 2018 with completion targeted for early 2019, Johnson said.

A homeless encampment called Camp Michela that set up behind the Dollar Tree in 2015 remains there, but the community development commission continues to look for an alternate location, Leddy said.

Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose 5th District includes the Roseland Village site, called the project an “essential piece” of revitalizing the neighborhood and said the area for too long has operated without a permanent library — the current branch uses temporary space next to the Dollar Tree store — or other community assets commonly found elsewhere.

“Quite frankly, the services haven’t been provided for decades, and they are long overdue,” Hopkins said. “It’s about time for Roseland to really start to get those community assets that many other communities take for granted, like public plazas and parks and libraries.”

Sitting at a small playground close to the painted basketball court area Monday afternoon, Angela Heredia, 40, was glad to hear of the development plans. Heredia, who has lived nearby for five years, praised the affordable housing component as a badly needed feature in the county.

But she was also encouraged just to see the land become something more active.

“This has been wasted space for a while, so now I’m glad they are doing something,” Heredia said.

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.

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