[caption id="attachment_28075" align="alignright" width="360" caption="Aerial view of the existing South Napa Marketplace shopping center and planned Gasser Foundation developments (courtesy of Strong & Hayden)"][/caption]

NAPA -- Retail and housing developments the Gasser Foundation has had in the works for years in south Napa are set to start coming out of the ground in spring or early summer now that a lease agreement has been secured for a movie theater that would be an anchor tenant for two projects totaling about 270,000 square feet.

Publicly traded Cinemark Holdings Inc., which owns the Century Cinedome 8 in downtown Napa, signed a lease agreement to relocate the theaters across the Napa River to a nearly 42,000-square-foot, 12-screen Century XD facility set to open in early 2012.

It will be in a 163,000-square-foot portion of a project called South River Place, located on about 15 acres at the northwest corner of the intersection of Imola Avenue and Gasser Drive between the existing South Napa Marketplace shopping center and the river.

“We are proceeding based on the theater going forward,” said Joe Fischer, a financial consultant to and a project manager for the foundation.

A joint venture between the foundation, Tricorp Hearn Construction board member Fred Hearn and former Vacaville City Manager John Thompson, the first phase of South River Place also is set to include construction of four pads for 22,000 square feet of shops and restaurants. Job prebidding is set to open in early February, so that construction can be complete by late spring 2012.

The developments would bring needed 10,000- to 25,000-square-foot spaces to the Napa market, according to Matt Connolly, part of the Strong & Hayden team marketing the retail space in these Gasser projects.

“There has been some demand from junior-anchor tenants trying to get into the market,” he said. That includes some new smaller-sized concepts from traditionally big-box retailers.

Also, some smaller retailers and restaurateurs have been interested in second and new-to-the-market locations.

The Gasser family purchased 145 acres along the river in the 1960s, and a master plan for the property was completed in 2005. Already built on the property are a city fire station and the South Napa Homeless Shelter. Construction on a 24-unit transition housing facility next to the fire station on Gasser Drive started in September.

The intersection of Soscol and Imola avenues has become a regional retail hub, something Pete Gasser wanted to accomplish, according to the foundation. In 1996 FHK Companies completed South Napa Marketplace, anchored by a Target department store, The Home Depot and Raley’s grocery store.

The city recently approved a specific plan for the Soscol corridor and is planning an extension of the Silverado Trail north-south valley thoroughfare south between the planned and existing shopping centers to connect to Imola.

Planned for the north end of the Gasser riverfront property, along Soscol Avenue, is Napa Tulocay Square, a venture between Gasser and Oxnard-based real estate developer BLT Enterprises Inc. It would have 110,000 square feet of retail space in 10 buildings, including two 26,000-square-foot anchor spaces, and a 500-unit multifamily complex.

The ongoing project to control the reach of the Napa River through the heart of the city has brought the whole east bank property out of the flood plain and is providing an incentive to move the theaters. Construction on a bypass channel through the site where the Cinedome is now is set to start around the time the new theaters would open.

Plano, Texas-based Cinemark, which acquired Century Theaters of San Rafael in 2006, will be handling bidding for construction of the theaters. The movie complex is set to be one of Cinemark’s new NextGen venues, with more than 2,000 stadium-style seats, digital projection systems, self-service concessions and an online ticketing option.

The complex also is set to have one of Cinemark’s XD, or Extreme Digital, theaters, which have 3-D capabilities.

Napa-based commercial real estate broker Jim Henry represented the foundation in the Cinemark lease negotiations.