Windsor shopping center plans restarted

The Press Democrat — December 3, 2015

Development plans are again moving forward on a key piece of property at the southern gateway to Windsor. A revised proposal for a medium-size shopping center will drop a hotel, conference center and mix of housing once envisioned there.

The latest plan for the site fronting Highway 101 and Shiloh Road, south of Wal-Mart and Home Depot, calls for a commercial center with a mix of yet-to-be-named major retailers, along with smaller shops and restaurants.

The 125,000-square-foot shopping center would be less than half the size of the 345,000-square-foot Shiloh Center across the street, but developers aim to bring in stores to stem “retail leakage,” created when residents go to neighboring cities to shop for merchandise that isn’t available in town.

Those categories identified in previous studies include apparel, home furnishings and specialty shops.

“They are looking at tenants that would fill the void in Windsor,” said Windsor Principal Planner Pauletta Cangson.

Peter Stanley, the Santa Rosa-based project manager, said a Southern California-based developer, Rich Development Enterprises, is working with a number of potential lessees that are interested in coming in, but nothing has been finalized.

The 50-year-old company, headed by Joseph W. Rich, specializes in midsized, multi-tenant retail commercial projects and has developed shopping centers, banks, supermarkets and other retail outlets throughout California and other western states.

The Windsor project, which is scheduled for a conceptual review by the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Tuesday, comes at a time of post-recession economic resurgence that is pushing development in Windsor and other cities.

Currently, there are more than 960 residential units in the pipeline or under active consideration in Windsor, according to Cangson, including two large downtown apartment projects of almost 400 units apiece.

One of those, Vintage Oaks, is proposed to the north of the Bell Village shopping center, which is currently under construction with an Oliver’s Market set for a spring opening.

Other areas of town also are seeing renewed commercial development, noted Ned Thomas, Windsor’s planning director.

Those include two mixed residential-commercial projects in the Town Green — on Johnson Street and another on Richardson Street — that were stalled for years and now are going forward.

New businesses also have cropped up in the Raley’s and Safeway shopping centers.

“Some of these shopping centers are starting to fill in a little bit,” Thomas said, adding that the Wal-Mart in Windsor just underwent a multimillion-dollar upgrade, which he described as “an enormous renovation.”

The project south of Wal-Mart proposed by Rich Development is on a 25-acre site that was part of the larger Shiloh Road Vision Plan approved by the Town Council 12 years ago with an emphasis on creating a mix of housing, offices and shops in a walkable environment.

But Stanley, the developer’s consultant, said the residential component doesn’t make sense on the property, which is owned by the Vicini family, due to the challenges posed by 14 acres of creek and seasonal wetlands that are protected, along with a half-dozen large “heritage” oaks.

“The vision plan was unrealistic,” he said. “It was more a dream than a vision.

“As much as we need housing, that site there would be a tragic place to put housing in. It’s just right on the freeway,” he said. “It’s more conducive to more retail, because of what’s going on literally across the street.”

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