Conceptual and long-delayed projects meant to breathe new life into downtown Santa Rosa took important steps forward this week.
Councilmembers unanimously approved launching exclusive negotiations with Burbank Housing to convert the former White House department store into housing.
While also approved, reservations were raised about consigning the 3rd Street garage to a similar fate. That plan, starting exclusive negotiations with Freebird Development and Rogal and Partners to replace it with housing was approved five to two.
Support wasn't universal. Local merchant Amy VanDyke, who operates a jewelry shop nearby said she, her employees and customers all depend on the garage for parking.
"I can't imagine the third street garage we will not survive if that is taken down," VanDyke said.
City officials say they recently received word that plans qualify for nearly $10 million in grants, but only if its under construction by the end of next year.
Doubting the city could meet that deadline, or face delays due to litigation, councilmembers Jeff Okrepkie and Diana MacDonald favored further study by creating a master plan. Or inviting other developers with a new request for qualifications. The two said they wanted the projects done right.
But councilmember Chris Rogers disagreed, saying the city needs to stop studying and take action.
"The road to a dead downtown has been paved by a thousand meetings like this, where we are asked to delay and delay and delay and this time we are being asked to give up ten million dollars that can help deliver housing for people, it could deliver a grocery store, it could deliver other amenities that we desperately need in our downtown," Rogers said.
There was other action as well. Following five years of design and reworking to qualify for state grant funding, the transformation of the Hearn Avenue overpass of Highway 101 is now set.
The Santa Rosa city council approved final documents enabling officials to accept bids on the project, which will include a pedestrian path and bicycle lanes.