Acting on a tip he received in a bar in Shanghai two years ago, Barry McComic checked out the urban landscape in downtown Napa, and has since invested millions in the city and shows no sign of slowing down.
McComic’s San Diego-based real estate investment firm, RBMC Advisors LLC, has purchased the Napa Valley Register building on Second Street, acreage along the Napa River, is in agreement to purchase property near the Culinary Institute of America’s planned renovation of the Copia building, and is nearing agreement on several other projects.
The investments come just two years after a 6.0 magnitude earthquake damaged large areas of downtown, including the newspaper building, and work to rebuild in some places is ongoing. The investments also come as Napa is hurting for housing, as the growing economy continues to create more jobs than places to live. Both of these were motivations for RBMC to invest in downtown Napa.
“The buildings were too expensive to retrofit. Napa suffered a lot of damage and in many instances the owners did not have the wherewithal to mediate the problem,” said McComic.
RBMC develops mostly residential communities in Southern California. The McComic family also owns Vesta Pacific, a contracting company, and McComic is chairman and CEO of Transworld Capital Limited, a registered Commodity Trading Advisor in Shanghai, where he lives part-time.
It was there McComic says he had the bar conversation with the head of Bacardi Asia Pacific, and a senior executive from PepsiCo, who suggested McComic look into Napa.
“I’ve been in real estate for more than 30 years. When I saw the (The Register) property I said, ‘This is a winner.’”
The property has everything McComic said he looks for in an investment. It’s within walking distance to restaurants, the Napa River and venues nearby like the Oxbow Public Market.
RBMC paid $5 million for the Register building. His plans call for construction of a $40 million mixed-use development including 51 townhouses and 6,000 feet of commercial space for a bookstore and shared office space. Townhouses will range from about 1,000 to 1,600 square feet, priced for professionals and business owners, he says. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2017.
The owners also threw in the Register’s damaged printing press which McComic wants to turn into a permanent sculpture exhibit.
RBMC also purchased 2.2 acres along the Napa River in the Oxbow district, from Napa County for $4.4 million. McComic said the company also has an agreement with ACA Financial Guaranty Corp., which insures the bonds that funded Copia, to purchase seven acres adjacent to the Copia property, with plans for a mixed-use development.
The CIA purchased the long-vacant Copia last year and has turned it into a facility focused on food and wine programs and events. The Copia sits next to the Oxbow Marketplace, 40,000 square feet of space devoted to local food and beverage vendors.
McComic said he is “dead set” on making sure the Napa River is opened up to the public. As part of that, he has purchased a 70-foot, Italian-made Azimuth yacht, with plans for floating bed-and-breakfast lodging on the Napa River. It has four state rooms, a deck for a trio or quartet to play music and lights up at night. McCormic said he is in talks with a local restaurant to provide catering. The boat, he said, would also be captained and make weekly trips to and from San Francisco. The boat would rent out for about $1,000 per night.