You know that rusty, chained-off warehouse at 444 Healdsburg Ave. with the swirly metal sculpture out front? Well, after years sitting empty, the century-old building may finally be transformed into something of use. In the old days, it reportedly served as a workshop for blacksmithing, welding and fabricating machines used in winemaking. But for the past decade, the building has been sitting in limbo under the ownership of celebrity photographer Annie Leibowitz and some of her family members. “The group tried to open an art gallery for the Healdsburg community around 2016 but the project was abandoned in 2019,” the Press Democrat reports, “and the property has been empty ever since.” Now, the same guy who Leibowitz hired to design the gallery — San Francisco artist Nilus DeMatran — is in the process of purchasing the building and taking matters into his own hands, along with his wife Jennifer. Their proposal for the site, approved by the City of Healdsburg’s planning commission at a recent meeting, shows a high-end art gallery on the ground floor of an ultra-modern, three-story building. A chic, 2,780-square-foot home is perched on the third floor, and another apartment with a large deck and a “plunge pool” occupies the second floor. “Rain catchments will allow the couple to fill the plunge pool with rain water collected from the rooftops,” according to the Press Democrat. And “the site will be filled out with public art, a sculpture garden, an expansive courtyard and parking for both cars and bikes.” Here are some more details on these city kids with a small-town dream, from the PD story: “The couple, who also have a home in Alexander Valley, are looking to retire in Healdsburg. ‘We really love the town,’ Jennifer DeMatran told the Healdsburg Planning Commission in 2022. … The project is set to include a first-floor gallery where the DeMatrans plan to work and sell art. Jennifer DeMatran is a graphic designer who has worked for Healdsburg businesses, including Dustin Valette’s restaurant, The Matheson. Nilus DeMatran is an architect and sculptor; he currently has a temporary sculpture in front of the rusted building’s facade, which he placed there during the COVID-19 pandemic.” So that’s where that thing came from! There’s no real timeline for all of this yet, but I’ll keep you posted. Caroline Bontia, the social media maven behind Shop Local Healdsburg, opines: “With the recent shop openings in 2023 of Rena Charles Gallery and a/muse, a boutique shop both across the street from 444 Healdsburg Ave, and Drewish Deli that also opened last year — this corridor of Healdsburg Avenue is getting some exciting new life.” (Source: Press Democrat & City of Healdsburg & Shop Local Healdsburg)

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Simone Wilson was born and raised in Healdsburg, CA, where she was the editor of the Healdsburg High School Hound's Bark. She has since worked as a local journalist for publications in San Diego, Los Angeles, New York City and the Middle East. Simone is now a senior product manager and staff writer for the Healdsburg Tribune.


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