By: Janet Fletcher, San Francisco Chronicle

“We’re starting to think a lot more creatively about how we can make the town more vibrant,” says Petaluma planning commission board chair Gina Benedetti-Pednic. An urban-growth ordinance approved several years ago “drew a hard line around the town,” prohibiting all development beyond the boundary, she says. “As a result, we’re incentivizing infill projects. We’re filling in the blanks.”

One such project just across the Petaluma River from The Block is Brewsters, a beer garden that sprouted 15 months ago on a Petaluma parking lot.

Another involves an abandoned lumber yard on the northeast side of Petaluma, outside city limits, where developers hope to engineer a hub for the region’s creative community. Cornerstone Properties, the developer, purchased the 12.9-acre site in 2014 and is now restoring its derelict main building and lumber sheds into an artisans’ marketplace, or so-called makerspace.

“We want people to be able to buy something from a local artisan and see how it was made,” says Cornerstone marketing director Pauline Block. “This will be a place people can go to experience all that Sonoma County has to offer.”

Block expects some retail tenants to be in place by early summer, with the restoration unfolding in phases. “We’re not going to ‘build it and fill it’,” Block says. “It’s going to grow organically.”

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Inside Petaluma's plans to transform its downtown