Gregory Beale, owner of Builder’s Studio and Thrive Construction in Sebastopol, closed escrow in April on one of the largest properties in downtown Sebastopol — the two-story, 12,000-square-feet building on the corner of Main Street South and Burnett. This building, former home of Roundtable Pizza and Sonoma West Times & News, has sat mostly empty for more than two years.
Now Beale is working on a plan to develop the building into a multi-business marketplace, featuring six to 12 small, food-related businesses with a shared commercial kitchen and space for pop-up businesses that the developers say will keep the site’s offerings new and surprising. Think Emeryville Public Marketplace or the Ferry Building in San Francisco, but on a much smaller scale and with a Sebastopol twist.
“I’ve been looking for a property for a long time,” Beale said. “This particular building is in desperate need of some re-imagining. It’s anything but turn-key, and that’s what attracted me to it.”
Beale has lived and run his building firm in Sebastopol for eight years with his wife, a Sebastopol native. He’s also a member of the city’s design review board.
“I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of what our community needs and what it’s missing,” he said. “It’s put us in the position to think about this building in terms of what the community needs and not just a business proposition.”
Beale said there are several small, local food vendors who’ve expressed interest in being a part of the project.
“We originally discussed this concept for the old Aubergine building and working on that plan allowed us to connect with several small food-related businesses that really liked the concept of being a part of a symbiotic group of businesses.”
He’s created a separate business entity, called Burnett Street Marketplace, and hopes that many of the vendors will eventually become co-owners of the marketplace.
“Ideally, my goal is that every tenant will have skin in the game in terms of overall ownership of the marketplace,” he said. “Burnett Street Marketplace will be the sole owner of the entire property, and the goal is that that entity can take on partners, who’ll have an equity share with profit sharing.”
That way, Beale said, “It makes everybody invested in each other so it’s not dog eat dog; it’s more like let’s support each other because the better we all do, the better we all do.”
Beale had a pre-planning meeting with the city of Sebastopol in mid-May.
“We did a presentation for all the different departments about what our vision is and to figure out what are the boundaries we might have to stay within and what special permits we might have to get,” he said.
Based on that meeting — and on a master plan that he already submitted to the city as a contractor working for the previous owner — he is optimistic that the permitting process will be relatively painless.
“I think I already have a good idea of what’s allowed there and what’s not, and 90% of what we wanted to do seems to be an easy fit.”
Beale said that in talking about his project with people around town, he’s heard one message loud and clear — that people are tired of high-end developments that are clearly designed for tourists rather than locals. He hopes Burnett Street Marketplace will have strong local appeal.
“We want this to be a place that a local family can go, park once and have interesting choices in terms of what they want to eat,” said Beale, who said that as a builder he loves creating beautiful environments that nurture community.
Although the building layout is still being worked on, he said there are plans to have indoor patio seating, a central atrium to bring in more natural light and perhaps a restaurant on the top floor, which already has an outside balcony that wraps around the building.
Beale said he hopes to have a building permit in hand by the end of the year and begin construction in January.