Q&A WITH MANAGING DIRECTOR DAVID HILL
David Hill is the managing director of Mill District, the guy in charge. That means he has perhaps the most comprehensive perspective on the project, its priorities, and the things that will need to happen to make the endeavor successful from here on out. Newsletter writer Matt Villano recently caught up with David to discuss the future of the project. What follows is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Mill District has received final map approval for the infrastructure. What does this mean to you?
It’s great that the box has been checked. The fact that the city has adjusted their ways of working and held the public meeting online—that was huge. We got tentative approval for the map back in May 2019, but this was final approval. Now we have official entitlements with the city to go forward on the project. This is a huge step toward confirming and solidifying the direction for Mill District.
To what extent were you worried about delays?
At any point City Manager David Mickaelian could have said none of the discretionary approvals were going forward. He didn’t say that. He was good about keeping this moving. He worked alongside the city engineer and others to get it done. We could have had a six or eight month delay but we’re right on track.
The City was able to issue a few site permits prior to the final map. What did that tell you about their commitment to Mill District?
Honestly it felt like there is now a degree of trust. We’ve built it up over what has been a four- or five-year relationship. They trust that we are going to do what we say we’re going to do. They did things like issue grading permits early to help us with the demolition and clean-up of the site. It feels great to know that they trust what it is we’re doing and that we’ll do what we say and what they ask.
Can you speak to the status of the design of the first phase of residential real estate at Mill District?
From the beginning of envisioning Mill District, we chose to work with Olson Kundig out of Seattle. They have a global reputation as one of the premier architectural firms and we believed they would add an organic style and elegance rooted in the former lumber yard and the variety of styles and forms that is Healdsburg itself. By blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, their buildings connect people to nature and we are designing residences that will allow the owners to take advantage of the beauty, weather and lifestyle of Healdsburg.
Where does the affordable housing project fit into all of this?
We are continuing to work every day on that and we are being respectful of the current work environment on site. Everyone is working diligently on architectural drawings and other technical specifications. That’s all we can do.
So do you have a revised timeline for the project?
We don’t have a revised timeline yet, but we are working remote to keep things moving forward and are eager to get back to the office. And we will. With so many unanswered questions about how long SIP will last, it’s hard to predict timing just yet.
And how would you characterize your overall sense of what happens with Mill District this summer?
It’s hard to tell right now. The big question is the economic impact, not so much on a day-to-day basis but more so as it relates to confidence in the marketplace. Making predictions about what happens now is like asking someone to make prediction on damage from a hurricane when the storm is halfway over. We will hit the ground running, as soon as we can, while doing everything we can to proceed safely.
I understand there are a tremendous amount of people who have expressed interest in the development, what would you like to tell them?
Simply put, Healdsburg is an amazing community. We are so proud to call this small town with a huge heart, home. Without blinking this town went to work when this crisis hit and we haven’t stopped. Car parades for Healthcare workers, free food and delivery of food to those most vulnerable, outpourings of monetary donations to local nonprofits, 20,000 loaves of bread? This list goes on and on and on. We are trying to capture in the stories on our Instagram feed. It goes without saying that this area is beautiful from the river to the ocean, from the wine to the food, to a climate that makes lifestyle a top priority. But when you top it off with this community, we’d say it’s a damn near perfect place.
Photo credit Kim Carroll