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SMART looks at housing as it's 'bread and butter'.

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Is Petaluma's mayor embracing rapid growth, and are her citizens on board?

Does Novato await the same fate?

Petaluma360.com by Philip Riley Argus-Courier Staff Friday, 1/14/2011 4:23p PST

SMART, city to develop around rail station sites

Petaluma SMART StationTerry Hankins
This aerial photo shows the Petaluma Arts Center and Petaluma Visitors Center with reddish roofs at bottom photo. The property behind the buildings, bordered by Copeland, East Washington and D streets, is slated for development.

The city is beginning to kick off planning for Petaluma’s two Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station stops, a much-anticipated process that will shape development in town for years to come.

Last week, SMART set plans in motion to develop land it owns surrounding one of Petaluma’s planned stops on the SMART rail line, on Copeland Street near downtown. Development of the SMART-owned lot is the first step in a larger process being undertaken by the city to create a master plan for walkable development within a half-mile radius of the two station sites — on Copeland street, and further north on Corona Road.

In conjunction with the city, SMART will soon look at development possibilities for the lot on Copeland Street, taking into account infrastructure and utilities needs, market indicators and other aspects that will help shape what ultimately gets built on the vacant 5.2-acre plot. The land — which is bounded by East Washington Street, East D Street, and Copeland Street — is currently vacant except for the Petaluma Art Center and Visitor Center buildings at the old train depot.

Once a market study is completed to determine “feasibility of uses in that area,” the city will work to find developers to build on the land.

“We are trying to walk in unison with the city,” said John Nemeth, rail planning manager at SMART. “If they have public meetings, we will consolidate them.”

Once a market study is completed to determine “feasibility of uses in that area,” the city will work to find developers to build on the land. SMART and the city hope to gather proposals from developers late this year, with groundbreaking expected in 2014. The entire SMART line, stretching north from Larkspur to Cloverdale, is also expected to open in 2014.

“Historically we’ve kind of looked at housing as our bread and butter for transit-oriented development, but the housing market is weak,” said Nemeth. In addition to housing, the land could include multi-story office space and limited retail uses, he said.

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