[caption id="attachment_39093" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Artist rendering of the 12-screen Napa Century Cinema, set to open in May 2012. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

NAPA -- Construction has started on a 163,000-square-foot shopping center in southeast Napa that is expected to draw about a half-million people a year to a new 12-screen high-tech movie venue alone, according to the developer.

Crews broke ground Monday on the 15-acre Napa Century Center project between the Napa River and the Silverado Trail at Imola Avenue, according to the Peter A. and Vernice H. Gasser Foundation. The site is across the street from the existing South Napa Marketplace center, anchored by Target, Home Depot and Raley’s Supermarket.

The 2,051-seat multiplex is set to open in late May 2012 and attract 500,000 to 600,000 movie-goers annually. Theater operator Cinemark, which acquired Century Theaters and has operated the eight-screen Cinedome theaters in downtown Napa, plans to build the new complex one of the Cinemark NextGen concept, including stadium-style seats, all-digital projectors as part of an experience the company calls Cinemark XD and self-serve concessions.

The shopping center is configured for nine other buildings, including potential for a 120-room hotel, at least two restaurants and two significantly sized retailers. Matt Connoly and Gary Van Dam of Strong & Hayden Commercial Real Estate of Napa are marketing that space for lease. They are in negotiations with two other anchor tenants.

"Preparation for this day is over 10 years in the making," said Strong & Hayden's Jim Henry, who brokered the theater lease for the Gasser Foundation.

Gasser Foundation plans to construct the center with environmentally friendly best practices consistent with the Sustainable Napa County initiative, which the philanthropy organization helped start. Such features will be photovoltaic panels and large cisterns to collect rainwater to minimize water use. The foundation wants to achieve gold-level LEED certification, the second-highest of four levels.

Napa Century Center is but one of the Gasser projects along the Napa River. Just north of the site, work is finishing on the $5 million, 60-bed South Napa Shelter. Between the shelter and Soscol Avenue is set to be Napa Tulocay Square, an approved project that would bring another 110,000 square feet of stores and restaurants as well as about 500 multifamily dwellings.

About 4.5 million people visit Napa Valley annually and spend about $63 million on retail purchases, not including wine. Average household income for the 146,000 living within 10 miles of Napa Century Center is $91,900.

For more information, contact Mr. Connolly or Mr. Van Dam at 707-226-2661 or visit www.stronghayden.com