RIVER’S BEND A vision of what a redeveloped Syar property at the bend in the Russian River could look like, based on the sales offering by Jones Lang LaSalle Brokerage Inc.

It may be hard to believe there are more than 88 acres of land inside city limits on the market, but a recent listing by Jones Lang LaSalle Brokerage Inc. presents just such an “outstanding opportunity.”

Visuals in the 5-page, full-color promotional listing show multistory apartments or office space, tree-lined streets and a riverside park. The copy promises “a high quality, mixed-use development, which may include a luxury destination hotel, townhomes, single family residences, and a mixture of retail & related commercial uses.”

The property, the former gravel mine owned and operated for years by Syar Industries, sold in 2022 to Vulcan Materials Co., an Alabama-based company in a similar business. It is located along Old Redwood Highway as it enters town south of the Memorial Bridge, and is entirely within Healdsburg’s city limits. *

BROKEN ASPHALT A sign points the way into the dumping area at the former Syar Industries, south of the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge.

The appearance of the Syar property on the real estate landscape is causing ripples in the community as well as the offices of city hall. But city officials and community voices caution that there’s a long road to travel between the current status of the property—a played-out gravel mine, mounds of tailings and a homeless encampment being removed by Reach for Home—and the utopian vision presented.

What piques some local concern is its resemblance to a similar array of development options already being pursued at North Village, just inside the northern city limits. Enso Village is the first of several developments on that site, while a luxury restaurant, a retail and commercial center, and additional housing are in the works.

The prospect of what might be called a “South Village” at the other end of Healdsburg makes many locals feel the pinch of encroaching suburbanization.

South Entry Area Plan

The city of Healdsburg is only just beginning to craft a South Entry Area Plan, a process that is expected to cost about $1.5 million. Although the plan is expected to get underway in 2024, City Manager Jeff Kay stressed that it is in its earliest stages. “We have a draft scope and budget for preparing a South Entry Plan, but have not initiated the plan,” he said. “The cost would be well in excess of $1 million for a specific plan and EIR,” a number he later amended to $1.5 million.

Given that the Syar property is now for sale, said Kay, “we are conveying to prospective buyers that they would need to participate in the funding of that planning work before any significant development could commence.”

A list of council goals for the rest of the year in a recent Strategic Plan update is led by “Initiative 1: Economic Diversity and Sustainable Growth,” whose top priority is the “Initial Scoping of a South Entry Area Plan.”

That entry also reveals, regarding the 88-acre Syar property, “Staff have met with property owners to discuss process and participation.”

‘Blank Slate’

The five-page, full-color brochure (available as a PDF) touts the acreage as a “’Blank Slate Development Opportunity,” and promises that “The City of Healdsburg has expressed a focused desire to see the subject property developed for a higher and better use, which will be a key and critical component of the beginning phase of the Southern Entry Area Specific Plan.”

Yet substantial hurdles stand in the way of any effort to turn the property into the dense, multi-use project previewed by the Offering Memorandum.

GRAVEL MINE The former gravel mine and production facility owned by Syar Industries, as seen from Badger Park along the Russian River, is being offered for sale.

The acreage has a significant downside, as there is no city sewage or city water supplied to the south side of Memorial Bridge. Any developer would need to add those costs to their prospective investment, along with reclassifying the industrial zone and performing an environmental clean-up of the earthworks business.

Perhaps significantly, Kay noted, “Under the current zoning and infrastructure availability, there is very little that could be developed, so the planning process would be critical. Any plan would include substantial community involvement.”

The real estate firm JLL agrees with that requirement, and spins it into an advantage. “Given the extreme importance of the site to the core area of the Southern Entry Area Specific Plan, this timing creates an opportunity for the new owner to take a leadership role in the process, while also potentially accelerating the schedule for any new development.”

The prospectus also reads, “The city continues to express a strong interest in considering a high quality, mixed-use development, which may include a luxury destination hotel, townhomes, single family residences, and a mixture of retail & related commercial uses.”

Kay was asked to evaluate the claims, and he responded, “Making progress on the South Entry Plan has been part of the adopted city council goals for a few years now, so I think it’s fair to say the city has a strong interest in advancing the planning process.

“As to what uses should ultimately be there, it has always been our intent that we have a community engagement process before making that determination.”

Vice Mayor Evelyn Mitchell works as an accountant with another quarry, Canyon Rock Co. of Forestville. She cautioned that this does not “give me insight into the Syar operation and sale,” but she, too, was skeptical about the likelihood of any imminent development of the South Entry area.

“The value in their property is to develop it,” she said. “However, the land is zoned industrial and there are no municipal services into that area. So the marketing piece is merely that, marketing, and is not a work product of the city.”

Notably, “Healdsburg Gateway is being offered without a list price,” according to the JLL memorandum. “Purchasers should rely on their own assumptions and base their offer and pricing on the ‘As-Is, Where-Is’ condition of the Property.”

  • * Note that this does not mean the property is owned by the city of Healdsburg; it is owned by James Syar, who sold the operational side of Syar Industries to Vulcan but is still the owner of the property – and much more along the Russian River from south of Healdsburg to Cloverdale.
Previous articlePolice Log, Feb. 5-11
Next articleTEDx Returns With Inspiration
Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


    • Who is going to pay for a park? The Saggio Hills park and the Badger Park improvements are already in the planning pipeline and the City is short about $40 million to fund those. There isn’t enough funds available to maintain what we already have.

      I look at this property and would love it to be a park. If every family in town agreed to a one-time tax of $2,500 we could maybe buy it.

      • Please sign me up for the newsletter - No
      • Have the developers pay for the park in exchange for the rezoning of the land.
        The City should push its weight around to make a better deal for the people of Healdsburg, not out of town developers.

        • Please sign me up for the newsletter - Yes
        • It’s time to restore the river and it’s habitat. The river was the #1 draw for generations of families who had cabins from Rio Nido to Occidental and beyond,
          For the last 2 decades the river has become a garbage dump for those squatting on the banks. How is this not illegal.? It’s time to turn the page on this nightmare river era!
          The residents of Healdsburg deserve to have the river as a recreation area for families and children. You might even have some tourists interested. City of Healdsburg do the right thing and fight for the River and the residents. I think people would be willing to contribute. Here is your chance to leave a beautiful legacy! I agree 100% with Eric.

          • Please sign me up for the newsletter - Yes


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here