NAPA — Plans are moving ahead at a cautious pace in the review process for a proposed boutique five-story, 200-room Copia Hotel and other improvements to be built adjacent to the former Copia wine, food and arts center at 500 First St.
This 80,000 square foot cultural facility built on 17 acres adjacent to the Napa River, was shuttered in 2008 following lengthy bankruptcy proceedings.
Developer Keith Rogal, principal with Rogal+Associates, believes this site in the picturesque Napa Riverbend, known as the Oxbow District, can become a key element in a revitalized city of Napa master plan.
He is working with the Copia Liquidation Trust (CLT) and ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. — the bondholder that acquired the property and its $78 million debt upon its bankruptcy — to develop a plan that would breathe life back to the site and transform it into a viable tourist destination and a catalyst for positive change in this section of the city.
CLT’s original concept contemplated development of the entire 17-acre property. The development concept included a new 175,652-square-foot 188-room hotel including 7,400 square feet of conference space, 50,000 square feet of new retail space and 180 new residential townhomes — in addition to proposing two floors (7,200 square feet) of underground parking for 266 vehicles.
The concept also included an enhanced theater, a riverfront park, culinary gardens, along with a public square and restrooms.
On February 11 CLT submitted development plans focusing on the northern 11 acres of the property. The revised plan reduces the amount of new retail space from 50,000 square feet to 9,000, increased meeting and conference space, and creates an outdoor gathering area in the north parking lot. The number of hotel rooms was also increased from 188 to 200.
However, one public group — the Coalition to Preserve Copia led by Harry Price and John Salmon — believes Copia should be exclusively utilized as a conference and meeting center in the future with local ownership and/or possibly seeing the Copia deeded to the City of Napa.
“The notion that a conference or convention center alone can sustain itself has been challenged in a recent report by JLLH consultants in regard to San Francisco’s Moscone Center expansion,” according to Mr. Rogal.
He said, “JLLH studies showed that even the Moscone Center often operates at a net operating income loss, which is typical of convention centers across the country.”
He added, “There is no doubt that the former Copia building can and should continue to accommodate meetings and events serving local organizations — it is just a question of how much of the building and property should be dedicated to such uses.”
The regulatory process surrounding the Copia redevelopment plan began with a presentation of a conceptual master plan for the property to the Planning Commission in December 2012.
Mr. Rogal then presented plans to rezone the property at Planning Commission meetings held on Nov. 7 and Dec. 19.
Development of the property has most recently been discussed by the Napa City Council on meetings held March 4 and 18.
The Napa City Council directed that a zoning amendment be prepared to require that the entire property be master planned.
“This is a complex issue with a lot of interests at stake. ACA’s business interests are understandable, but those interests must be balanced with the history, vision and community interests for the property. Identifying an appropriately scaled mix of uses that does not have negative consequences on the core downtown area or other projects in the area is a key issue for Napa,” according to Ken MacNab, city of Napa planning manager.
“There are considerations about it fitting into the area as a transition from structures downtown. We also need to consider how the Copia project impacts the Oxbow Market, other hotels in the city and existing plans focusing on the downtown area as the center of our community,” Mr. MacNab added.
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