Meritage hotel owner buys land for expansion

[caption id="attachment_67176" align="alignright" width="362"] Map of Napa Valley Commons northwest of the junction major valley thoroughfares showing The Meritage Resort & Spa and the new property to the north.[/caption]

NAPA -- The owner of The Meritage Resort & Spa has purchased land across the street as part of a plan to enhance the experience for the tens of thousands of visitors the recently expanded 323-room facility brings to Napa Valley each year.

Less than a year after completing a roughly $40 million expansion that about doubled the number of rooms and brought the amount of meeting space to more than 50,000 square feet, an affiliate of Irvine-based Pacific Hospitality Group purchased 9.3 acres of vacant land directly to the north and plans to invest about $5 million late this year renovating the resort's original rooms, finished nearly seven years ago.

The land at the northeast corner of Bordeaux Way and Napa Valley Corporate Drive was purchased from a fund managed by Irvine-based LBA Realty on Dec. 28 for an undisclosed amount. LBA Realty acquired the property in 2006 by purchasing Bedford Property Investors, which was the original developer of Napa Valley Corporate Park, recently renamed Napa Valley Commons.

Pacific Hospitality wanted to preserve the resort feel of The Meritage and adjoining Vina Bello Resort, a 182 luxury condominium development owned by Shell Vacations, and prepare for expansion, according to Kory Kramer, Pacific Hospitality vice president for acquisitions and development.

"We didn't want some other group buying the land across the street and building something not related to a hotel," he said. "We didn't want industrial buildings across the street."

The company brought in Santa Monica-based hospitality design firm Kay Lang & Associates, which also is planning the room remodel this fall, to help come up with concepts for what could go on the newly acquired property. Based on projected needs, the expansion concept includes more conference and meeting space, possibly more guest rooms and additional parking to accommodate cars typically lining Bordeaux Way during large events.

One idea for the expansion is some sort of food-and-wine education and experience, according to Mr. Kramer. Potentially, that would include a collective tasting room featuring The Meritage's wine brand, Trinitas Cellars, currently poured for visitors in a tasting venue that's part of a 22,000-square-foot cave constructed in the hillside behind the hotel, as well as brands by producers based elsewhere in Napa Valley Commons. Other producers in the corporate park are Patz & Hall, Falcor Wine Cellars, Ca'Momi, Fior di Sole, Robert Mondavi, and J. Lohr, some of which have their own tasting venues.

"Part of the experience of coming to wine country is wine and food," Mr. Kramer said.

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