Young Leaders Reimagine Downtown

Want to know what the future of downtown Santa Rosa might look like? Just ask the members of Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (TLT), a Sonoma County youth organization that aims to develop and empower youth to become collaborative leaders and productive members of their communities.

On February 25th, the Santa Rosa Planning and Economic Development Department hosted TLT members for a Government and Planning Day at City Hall. Young participants were asked to imagine the future for several key properties in Downtown Santa Rosa and present their ideas for planning and redevelopment of the sites to City decision-makers.

After a presentation from City staff about the nuts and bolts of city planning and a brief introduction to the Downtown Station Area Specific Plan Update now underway, participants were given the address of a property downtown that has potential to be redeveloped under the updated Specific Plan. Their mission was to visit the property; perform a site analysis and examine existing conditions; assess their project’s feasibility; and then present a future development proposal to a panel of Planning Commission members.

Here’s a recap of what the young leaders proposed for the study sites:

Group 1 – Vacant Building, Santa Rosa Avenue

·       New 5-6 story mixed use development with amenities like laundry, a gym, and proximity to Juilliard Park and public transit

·       Affordable units above active, street-activating retail to create “eyes on the street”

·       Encouragement of transit, but some parking provided through garage contracts

·       Affordability could allow some people to move out of transitional housing

Group 2 – Vacant Building, B Street

·       3-story renovation of the existing building, with an engaging arts and culture center (The Santa Rosa Experience, or SRXP) on the first floor, restaurant on the second floor, and a bar/lounge/outdoor space with nightlife on the 3rd floor (inspired by Hopmonk Tavern)

·       New uses would boost foot traffic to the mall

·       The arts and cultural center exhibits would be interactive, constantly changing, highly sharable on social media, and a celebration of Sonoma County’s wine, food, and tourism industries

·       Renovation and no added parking would save on construction costs and reduce environmental impact

Group 3 – City-Owned Parking Structure

·       7-story building with residential and rooftop amenity added to existing garage structure, with three stories reserved for resident parking

·       Reduction of public parking means less people driving downtown

·       Proposed space for local small business or ground floor grocery store with internal coffee shop

·       Varied rents, with affordable units on lower level appealing to Junior College students, and rents offsetting higher construction costs associated with a garage retrofit.

Learn more about the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today program here.