THE PLOT THICKENS
In August 2021 the Sentinel carried an article about the County Supervisors decision to move the county headquarters to downtown Santa Rosa where the current Sears building stands empty. With the latest Board of Supervisors meeting some prices were listed for this venture.
The purchase of the former Sears site is going to cost $20.75 million. Of course, the present Sears building will have to be torn down. The new downtown campus which would include a pair of new office towers is expected to cast as much as $55 Million a year over 30 years of financing. This figure comes from Caroline Judy, the county’s real estate chief. Supervisor David Rabbitt had the wisdom to say that this is not a $21 Million decision but a $1.2 to $1.65 Billion decision. This estimated price makes this project among the largest taxpayer-funded capital project in the region in decades.
The 7.4 acre former Sears property is bounded by B Street to the east and Highway 101 to the west. Until 2018 when the Sears store closed it was an anchor tenant for the Santa Rosa Plaza.
The editorial in the Press Democrat on February 13th is all for this move. With incredible optimism the editorial states that Santa Rosa city officials and local investors are committed to creating a vibrant urban core with housing, shopping, dining and arts. The editorial further states that the county has partnered in efforts to facilitate residential development near transit and bringing county government back downtown will help achieve all those goals.
Let’s take a different look. As the Sentinel stated in August, build the 15 story building at the county complex. That would be close to the court house and the jail which are not moving. Housing, including condos, three story apartments and stores could be built on the remainder of the county property. There could also be a parking garage for county employees.
Supervisor Chris Coursey believes that the move will be good because the Sears building is close to the Smart Train and to the transit mall. This assumes that county workers will not want to drive their cars to work.
One final question: why is the county of Sonoma going into huge debt to revitalize downtown Santa Rosa which is not that big an area? With the end of the pandemic, Santa Rosa should be able to revitalize with encouragement and possibly some incentives for the business community. Does the rest of Sonoma County want to be responsible for “revitalizing” Santa Rosa?