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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, July 9, 2012, 7:00 am

Idea gains of Copia as a corporate site

Building can offer nearly 65,000 square feet of commercial space

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    NAPA — The envisioned shift of the shuttered 80,000-square-foot Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts building near downtown Napa from exhibition space to high-end corporate quarters isn’t such a stretch, according to a consultant for the owner.

    Napa's 80,000 square-foot Copia center

    Building owner ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. started marketing nearly 65,000 square feet of the building on the 11-acre property in a prominent oxbow of the Napa River as office and commercial space in June through commercial real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield [see the commercial real estate column item on this in the June 11 issue] based on an inquiry from a major vintner on the North Coast, according to Joe Fischer, a longtime Napa development consultant working with Rogal + Associates on options for the property. 

    “We looked at the headquarters approach after we were approached by Constellation Brands when they were looking at different options for their space needs and their investments in Napa Valley,” Mr. Fischer said.

    Constellation Brands has been a major fixture of Napa Valley since it acquired Robert Mondavi Corp. in 2004 for about $1 billion. The Upstate New York-based company’s North Coast portfolio also includes Ravenswood, Simi, Clos Du Bois and perhaps soon Mark West. Constellation has a major North Coast distribution center and offices in the business parks south of Napa near the airport.

    Though Constellation ultimately decided against going into the building, developing a space plan for the company at Copia revealed what was possible with the space, Mr. Fischer said.

    “In that exercise, it occurred to us that the building offered a level of existing amenities that were really spectacular for a corporate entity,” he said.

    “We also felt that such an iconic location in the heart of the Oxbow District and minutes from the valley’s world famous wineries could be a great fit for a firm looking for a special location given their trade and customer relationship objectives.”

    The revitalization of downtown Napa in the past decade with continuing progress in taming Napa River’s wet-season surges through the heart of the city has led to three major class A office developments in downtown Napa — Napa Square, Main Street West and The Riverfront — plus dozens of new wine tasting rooms and restaurants.

    “The nearly 65,000 square feet of space that could easily fit a large tenant with the possibility to add even more is not available anywhere in the city center,” Mr. Fischer said.

    Copia opened in November 2001 after more than a decade of work by Robert Mondavi himself and other backers. It closed in November 2008 amid a bankruptcy filing because of $80 million in debt. Bond financier ACA Financial took possession of the property.

    Among the uses proposed for the building since its closing was a Culinary Institute of America campus and a conference center. The former movie and lecture theater in the building can accommodate up to 285 spectators, and the demonstration area can hold up to 75, but the building also has smaller conference rooms for up to 12 people and can be modified to add more, according to Mr. Fischer.

    “The building itself is very adaptable, given its construction,” he said. “We looked at a number of different plans that take advantage of some of the existing fabulous features and spaces and possibilities for new ones. The location on a peninsula surrounded by a park, planned walking paths and the Oxbow (Public) Market creates some tremendous views and amenities.”

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