NAPA -- The Napa River Inn recently received approval from the City Council to add 26 new rooms and a third story to the property, which will enable the hotel to begin preliminary site work while it awaits state approval.

[caption id="attachment_61117" align="alignright" width="390"] This composite photo and artist rendering shows the planned third-floor expansion. (credit: MCA Architecture)[/caption]

Because the property sits on a site along the historic Napa River Mill that once housed a coal gasification plant in the late 1800s, the hotel must now be granted a permit from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, according to Harry Price, general partner of Napa Mill LLC, which owns the hotel.

"It will just take some time to work through the state," Mr. Price said. An exact date -- or even an exact cost figure -- is not yet known, because of the needed state approval.

The expansion would push the total number of rooms from 66 to 92 for the downtown hotel, and would add other amenities such as a new pool, a fitness center and spa, meeting space and other features.

Construction plans call for adding a third story to the hotel, which will house 10 new rooms, and an additional 16 rooms in a newly constructed two-story, 15,000-square-foot building, Mr. Price said.

"The new rooms will be significantly larger than the old rooms," Mr. Price said. "And we'll be building them in a slightly more luxurious fashion."

While the hotel awaits state approval, Mr. Price said as much ancillary work as possible will be started in preparation, including new signage and new landscaping. Work on the third floor will begin before state approval because it's on the existing property and not on the former toxic site, Mr. Price said.

"We're going to be constructing a new building, but that will be delayed because of its location on a brownfield," Mr. Price said, adding that the Napa River Mill and about eight to 10 properties along the west bank of the river are the original buildings of downtown Napa.

No completion date has been determined because of the pending state approval.

"We don't even have a start date, so it's hard to have a completion date," Mr. Price said. "We're just taking it one step at a time."

The expansion plans for the Napa River Inn come as both the city and the county continue to see a spike in hotel expansions or new buildings. In the city of Napa, there are 657 rooms, from five separate hotel projects, that are approved and awaiting construction, according to a list provided by the city.  

Another 84 rooms are pending approval. The southern portion of Napa County near Airport Park is counted separately, where another project, a Montalcino Resort Hotel, has been approved for a 379-room property.

Additionally, South Carolina-based OTO Development has secured land for a 115-room hotel adjacent to a 12-screen movie theater complex currently under construction in southern Napa.

The hotel, intended to be under the Hampton Inn & Suites brand, would sit next to the 163,000-square-foot shopping center.

While the dates and some of the details for the Napa River Inn expansion remain "appropriately vague," as Mr. Price put it, hotel ownership is optimistic about the project.

"We're just here with our heads down," Mr. Price said. "Maybe the state will surprise us."

In late August, the Napa City Council voted 2-1 in favor of the project, with councilman Peter Mott voting against the project, citing parking concerns. Napa Mayor Jill Techel recused herself from the vote because of a donation by Mr. Price toward her campaign. Council members Juliana Inman and Mark van Gorder voted in favor.