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Friedman's Home Improvement calls Deer Creek a way to return to its roots

The developer of the Deer Creek Village project, Merlone Geier Partners, announced Monday afternoon that it has signed a long-term lease agreement with Friedman's, the Petaluma-grown home improvement store.

The announcement comes just two weeks before the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, where an important project approval — that of the environmental impact report —is scheduled to be considered.

"We're returning to our roots," said Bill Friedman, Chairman and CEO of Friedman's Home Improvement, in a statement Monday. He called the return to Petaluma a "longtime dream" of three generations of Friedmans.

He added that development could begin this summer if the project is approved, with Friedman's opening for business in the summer of 2013.

"We are very excited with a partnership that will bring Friedman's back to Petaluma,"said Greg Geersten, partner and project manager for Merlone Geier, also in a statement Monday.

Ever since Lowe's Home Improvement pulled out of the project in October, it has been unclear what home improvement store would the fill the main storefront space in the Deer Creek Village development, planned for the east side of town.

When Lowe's backed out, Councilmembers Mike Healy and Chris Albertson called the void a great opportunity for Friedman's to return to Petaluma.

Friedman's quickly expressed interest in the spot, though The Home Depot also indicated interest.

Friedman's originated in Petaluma back in 1946, when brothers Benny and Joe founded it. The company left town in 1976 after its lease ran out, and shortly after, a fire destroyed the building it had occupied. Ironically, Benny Friedman once owned part of the land that Deer Creek Village is developing, said Friedman's Chief Financial Officer David Proctor in an earlier interview.

Friedman's currently has locations in Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Ukiah and has for many years been seeking a way to return to its roots.

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