[caption id="attachment_30857" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="John Schaefer"][/caption]

The Napa retail market, despite national economic trends, remains strong. As a world-class vacation destination, Napa is insulated from national economic downturns with a wealthy population base and a steady flow of affluent tourists.

The greater Napa area is largely under-retailed because of local political aversion to additional development and the desire to protect the area from sprawl.

Currently, the vacancy rate for 2.34 million square feet of retail space inside Napa is 4.3 percent. Of the 5.94 million square feet of such space in Napa County, the rate is slightly less at 3.7 percent. Average asking rents vary from $1.25 to $3.50 a square foot on a triple-net basis.

In the past three years, downtown Napa has seen several new projects built.

The biggest newcomer is set to be the Gasser Foundation's joint-venture projects South River Place and Napa Tulocay Square along the east bank of the Napa River between Soscol and Imola avenues in southeast Napa. The two projects would have a total of 270,000 square feet of retail space. South River Place has lease commitments from anchor tenant Cinemark Holdings for a 12-screen movie complex to replace the eight-screen one downtown.

The Riverfront, which Terranomics Retail Services leases, is a high-end center on Main Street along the Napa River. It has retail below offices and residential suites. This project has concept restaurants and shops by award-winning chef and s such as "Iron Chef" Masahuru Morimoto's Morimoto Napa, Tyler Florence's Tyler Florence Rotisserie and Wine and Tyler Florence Shop, and Lark Creek Restaurant Group's Fish Story.

Napa Square at the southwest corner of Franklin and First streets is another new mixed-use project with retail below office space.

Across the street from that is AVIA Hotel, a four-star hotel with 141 guest rooms above 12,000 square feet of retail space.

Existing retail centers are getting significant newcomers to the Napa Valley. As part of Southern California-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's push into Northern California, a store in Riverpart shopping center in Napa is set to open April 27. Stores in Fairfield and Vacaville in neighboring Solano County are scheduled to open March 16, and one is being considered for Windsor in Sonoma County.