Friedman's Home Improvement, a local business that got its start in Petaluma, unveiled on Tuesday the design plans for a new store in the proposed Deer Creek Village shopping center on McDowell Boulevard.

Store owner Bill Friedman said that he wants the 78,000 square foot space to be a "flagship" store, where Friedman's can take the best aspects of its current three stores and combine them with new features inspired by concepts staff has seen in other stores around the country.

Friedman also talked about his excitement at returning to Petaluma, where the Friedmans founded their first store in 1946. There hasn't been a Friedman's in Petaluma since 1976.

The design, which was unveiled at a Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday morning, featured two 35 by 36 foot "living walls" at the front corners of the building.

The walls would be covered in plants that could change with the seasons, said Friedman.

"It makes it feel comfortable as you enter the store," he said. Two similar walls would greet customers entering the garden center.

Friedman said a member of the company's in-house design team suggested the living wall concept after seeing something similar in San Francisco. Living Walls are catching on in San Francisco and other cities, touted for their ability to improve air quality and save energy, in addition to their aesthetics.

Friedman's signed on to be the Deer Creek Village shopping center's main tenant in February, after Lowe's Home Improvement pulled out in the fall of 2011 and before the development's environmental impact report was certified in April.

For the last six months, the developer, Merlone Geier Partners, has worked with Friedman's and city staff to adapt design plans to accommodate the store.

"It will be the most unique project ever built in this city," said Greg Geertsen, a managing partner with Merlone Geier.

The 346,000 square foot shopping center, opposed by some residents and community groups because of concerns over traffic, flooding and noise, among other things, received a key approval, the Environmental Impact Report, though the city must still approve the design plans for the site.

The Planning Commission is expected to consider those plans on Aug. 14. The plans would then go before the City Council after that.

Originally, after the Environmental Impact Report was approved in the spring, the developer Merlone Geier said it would like to break ground this summer and be open by the summer of 2013.

While it appears that goal for breaking ground won't be met, the hope is still to have the shopping center open by the end of next summer if Deer Creek receives the final approvals in time to start construction this winter, said Geertsen.

A legal challenge has been an ongoing possibility, as residents and neighborhood groups worked with lawyers to submit comments finding fault with the Environmental Impact Report.

(Contact Jamie Hansen at jamie.hansen@argus