The proposal to turn the Sonoma Cheese Factory building into a multi-tenant food and wine marketplace returns to the April 12 agenda of the Sonoma Planning Commission. The expansion plan, which includes the addition of a sub-floor to nearly the double building size to 25,000 square feet, was continued from the panel’s March 22 meeting.
If approved, the new structure would house vendors of “locally-sourced artisan foods, cheeses, baked goods, wine, coffee, and other related food and non-food products.” Inevitably the project has been compared to Napa’s successful Oxbow Market, both in its concept and because the developer behind Oxbow, Steve Carlin, is part of the Cheese Factory proposal.
The iconic Plaza building at 2 West Spain Street, built in 1945, is a designated historical landmark. Its façade would remain unchanged. The building elements behind it would be removed and replaced, according to a city staff report.
Two restaurant tenant spaces and a wine bar are proposed, with combined seating of 63 indoor and 16 outdoor. In total, there would be a total of 245 indoor seats and 72 outdoor seats.
As for parking, no new on-site spots are proposed. A study estimates that parking demand will increase by approximately 20-40 spaces during peak periods, resulting in a net parking shortfall of 11-13 spaces at those times. The developers aknowlege that such a shortfall “could lead to the encroachment of commercial parking in neighboring residential areas.”
The plan counts on available parking in the Casa Grande parking lot, which is immediately behind the Cheese Factory building. That lot, owned by the state, is leased to the city of Sonoma. That lease is currently in negotiations.
A city staff report to the Planning Commission states that as a condition of project approval, the applicants could be required to pay an in-lieu fee – money that, potentially, “could assist reconfiguring the Casa Grande parking lot to provide additional parking spaces and improve facilities for tour bus parking.” Any such improvements would be subject to the review and approval of State Parks.
The Planning Commission meets Thursday, April 12, at 6:30 p.m., City Council Chambers, 177 First St. W., Sonoma. Other agenda items include a proposal to expand Café Scooteria seating and add a walk-up coffee bar, and another to allow a nano-brewery at Mi Ranchita.