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Novato North Redwood Corridor from the commercial real estate viewpoint

The North Redwood Corridor is a hot topic that has been discussed by the public and the city. Here is what commercial real estate agents have to say.

Photo by Rem O'Donnelley
Photo by Rem O'Donnelley

Commercial real estate brokers speak up about North Redwood Corridor development 


The issue of the North Redwood Corridor continues to generate conversation. The public and city have talked about it for a long time. Questions about what businesses will go up in the vacant land and are far from over. This is the first in a series of articles on the North Redwood Corridor and parties who have an opinion on this hot topic.

Head North on Redwood and once you cross Olive and The Village shopping center with Trader Joe's and Starbucks, the development stops. There is a large field. This field and the shopping center is owned by ROIC, Retail Opportunity Investments Corporation.

Beyond the field are a few properties including the large, corrugated factory building known as the Dairyman's Mill. Over at Cassidy Turley, commercial real estate broker Steven Leonard said these properties are in contract to be bought by ROIC.

“With ROIC buying it (our properties) this adds continuity for the future development of the existing ROIC site and the Dairyman's Mill site, which is what the city wanted to see,” Leonard said.

Over at the commercial real estate company of Sperry Van Ness, managing director John Williams is also the Chair the City of Novato Economic Development Advisory Commission.

With the city having lifted the moratorium on building, “the city is very enthusiastic about the last remaining large parcel of land that can accommodate retail and generate sales tax revenue for the community,” Williams said.

He explained that in September and October the public took advantage of the opportunity to weigh in with their design ideas on developing the North Redwood Corridor area.

“We had two public charrettes (design meetings), one of them for six hours to get public input and we had a follow up that was another three or four hours where volunteer architects and landscape architects drew up sample designs of what could go there,” Williams said.

“The city has to now allow the applicant to come forward with a proposed design for the property with the public input in mind.”


What type of retail businesses would you like to see in the North Redwood Corridor?

Al Nymous January 15, 2014 at 04:02 PM
who owned the property before RIOC, and who brokered the deal?
Bubba six pack January 15, 2014 at 05:02 PM
There's an old saying in poker-"when you sit down at a table to play with strangers, see if you can spot the sucker. If you can't, it's you". It's the same with Patch. You looked around, didn't see anyone willing to tackle a real subject, and posted. In my mind, you're the new editor, based on this type of needed article. Get ready for an onslaught of differing opinions, trolls, naysayers, and good ideas. We need to see this topic/series survive. This town is not yet finished with this issue.
Rem O'Donnelley January 15, 2014 at 05:09 PM
Thanks. This is the first in a series of article on this subject at this stage. There will be plenty more articles as the North Redwood Corridor changes.
Eleanor Sluis January 15, 2014 at 05:35 PM
Roger and Al- I like the big box stores, too. However, when we had Goodman’s, a medium home depot store, it did not survive. There are too many small stores which would have to compete and usually the big box corporate culture undercuts them, which causes these small town stores to lose money and to disappear. Our Novato stores, which will feel the hit, are Pini, Sloat and Anderson Nursery, Novato Lumber, Marin Landscape, Tresch Galeria, Empire Carpet, Novato Glass, and any other small business that support Novato’s small, rural, agricultural, suburban town and ambiance. I think it would be a wash to have a big box built. Think of the money we would save by not having it, which could be placed into the unfunded liability pension fund. How? We could reduce the community development funding by $ 500,000 and still get a lovely Redwood Corridor development that complements our small businesses. Furthermore, the big box focus is pushed by the developers who are not willing to wait for a small town plan and want to build the 70-100 units in the area with no setbacks and less parking. They are lobbying the city staff and council for a hurry-up and build it, crowd it in plan to urbanize Novato. I disagree with that approach. The approach and discussion detracts from the Mission Lodge new proposed 6 story – 60+ units to be built over the frontage road cutting redwood trees, no setbacks, with a design that needs to be re-evaluated. This is an entrance to Novato. Close by there is a plan for a new bus hub, which is supposedly being designed with fewer trees, no concern for the unsafe crosswalk across from Peet’s . Again, these are urbanizing measures for Novato – high density and less parking costing in the long run more taxes for local residents. Novato wants to celebrate its small town charm with a birthday bash- but the above plans do not do that.
Mark Burnham January 15, 2014 at 05:45 PM
Rem thanks for the great first article here. Keep 'em coming. One suggestion, both the real estate brokers you spoke to seemed to tread carefully. Both of them indicated that it was "the city" that was "enthusiastic" and that this is "what the city wanted to see". If you read between the lines does it seem like the real estate professionals were "enthusiastic" about it? Or rather are they biting their tongue and thinking "the city council is made up of fools"? I would focus on digging a little deeper with the commercial real estate community and developers as to whether the city's ideas and their focus groups actually jibe with the real world realities of what tenants are looking for and the city's wish list. I bet you will find a large divide between the reality of who would actually come to Novato and open shop and the city/focus groups vision of what should be there. The city spins their wheels and wastes years of time with this stuff. Get down to the nitty gritty in your next piece and beyond. Thanks for your focus.
Tahoe 55 January 15, 2014 at 07:47 PM
My daughter and I would love to see a book store. We have been without for far too long. Copperfield's would be great!
Roger January 15, 2014 at 09:18 PM
Our citizens drive to San Rafael or Petaluma to buy appliances. Novato loses lots of sales tax revenue. Novato Mothers got TJs to come here. Perhaps they can convince Martin & Harris to open a store near TJs. Not many Novatoans drive outside to get groceries, so why build Sprouts here?
Al Nymous January 15, 2014 at 09:56 PM
how about tattoo shops and stripper clubs? Redwood can be the red light district.
novato 3per January 15, 2014 at 10:27 PM
Pini Hardware's prices are ridiculous (2X the price of a bag of cement at home depot, for example) and so I'd welcome some price competition, also better selection. Novato Builder's supply is also more expensive, and depending on who you deal with, not always friendly to part time do it yourselfers. I for one would welcome a Friedman's here, and I'd also like to see Novato feed and supply stay right where it is. Also, can we get a gun and hunting , possibly fishing store in downtown? I decided long ago not to go back to the one gun dealer in the city due to the bad attitude I received, so I currently take my business to B2 Enterprises in Cotati - 7950 Redwood Dr #6, Cotati, CA 94931 - good folks. Sports Authority doesn't really cut it for serious fishermen / hunters.
Bubba six pack January 15, 2014 at 10:46 PM
Work on the sales tax issue, as any builder working in the area will go for the best net price for materials. Sales tax is figured in, and Novato loses business with builders who go out of town to get their materials. The high sales tax also drives away car and furniture sales, and Macys is closing stores. Roll it back.
Veronica Laboure-Slaughter January 17, 2014 at 05:20 PM
A little bit of culture and night life in Novato wouldn't hurt. We've been waiting for a bookstore since TJ's was built. It doesn't have to be massive, actually if Novato could distinguish itself with some creativity it would make the town more popular.
Al Nymous January 17, 2014 at 08:16 PM
@ Veronica: Loveable rogue bookstore on grant by old town sports. Your welcome.
Roger January 19, 2014 at 05:06 PM
If SMART is now saying that SMART's planned walk path south along the tracks toward Grant may now have a problem getting under the existing San Marin overpass...not enough room next to the tracks, Novato needs to jump in and make sure this path is done right. Since we want the new development near Trader Joe's to be a "destination area", we need to make it easy for train riders to walk there from the San Marin station. Forcing walkers to go up the hill of the overpass to use the crosswalk across San Marin Drive would be a major drawback to the whole intent of mass transit. The Council and the new shopping center developers should offer some money to help expand the area under the overpass to make room for the walk path. Or, maybe get our Novato rep on TAM to seek money there.
Tina McMillan January 24, 2014 at 12:53 PM
The charettes included a member of ROIC who was interested in Plan 1. Rem if you can put the three plans up from the charettes they are posted on the city website. Plan 1 shows lifestyle retail from Trader Joes through Dairymen's. It has a pedestrian friendly design. It ties into the multiuse path that SMART is mandated to add alongside the track. It has a lot of nice features to give folks an idea of what could be done. ========================================== Plan 1 does not include Friedmans on these properties. Friedman's or a store of its size is suggested for the property that is currently the bus yard/water district site. ========================================== For the families that want a Home Improvement Store, Friedman's would provide much of what we lack. It all depends on whether they can relocate the existing uses, if the 11.6 acres is enough space to meet environmental review and if the traffic studies pan out. ========================================== The good news is with the Moratorium lifted they can submit ideas to be vetted by the planning department and commissions. ========================================== Novato is losing more sales tax revenue now that both Petaluma and San Rafael have their own Target stores. We need to get on the ball with a really unique design and stores that can be used by residents and that would be used by people from out of town as well. If they tie the development into the stretch of Redwood from Olive to Grant we can bring more business to Old Town. We have wonderful stores there that just need more foot traffic. Bob Brown talked about providing shuttle service to tie the two districts together. The design will have a lot to do with how people shop.
Gail Wilhelm January 30, 2014 at 05:18 PM
I think one must evaluate what retail NEEDS are going unmet in Novato, Marin & the North Bay. The one I think might make Novato a must go to place is if we capitalized on the fact that our housing stock of homes and condos built during the building boom of the 60's and 70's is aging and are in need of updating and renovation. I suggest that a design center that provides for euro style compact kitchens and bathrooms of smaller, sleeker, and more efficient appliances would be a block buster. As well as multipurpose pieces of furniture. If you have ever rented a flat in London or Paris you know Europe is light years ahead of us in availabilty of these products. But save yourself a trip and look at the internet for tips. An appliance store would be a welcome addition as well.
Tina McMillan January 30, 2014 at 05:24 PM
Gail: While that may be what you want, other may want and need a wider variety of choices. Remember people are already leaving Novato to shop elsewhere. It's not a question of providing a tiny, niche store that caters to people who want to replicate European tastes but adding stores that have the ability to cover a range of tastes and that will allow people to shop locally.
Roger January 30, 2014 at 06:22 PM
Gail: Yes, Novato's retail leakage study showed appliances was a big leakage item. Also, new car sales was another area that Novato was low on. In the last 5 years I bought two new cars...both in Petaluma.
Hopkin January 30, 2014 at 06:30 PM
Roger, have you read our local dealerships' reviews on Yelp? I think Toyota was OK, with the others being bad (if pretty funny).

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