Big Napa redevelopment with Costco store, hundreds of homes readies for construction

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Napa Pipe project

Size: 154 acres

Address: 1025 Kaiser Road, Napa

Developer: Napa Redevelopment Partners, LLC

Cost at buildout: $500 million (estimated)

Timeline:

  • Mid-1930s: Plant opened as sand and gravel quarry
  • 1941: Plant converts to a shipyard for the World War II effort
  • Post-World War II: Plant shifts to large industrial projects
  • 2004: Plant closed
  • 2005: Napa Redevelopment Partners purchases the land
  • 2012: Costco Wholesale store is added to the project. Development agreement is approved.
  • Fall 2017: Site remediation starts.
  • Late 2018-Early 2019: Remediation set for completion.
  • 2020-2021: Costco Wholesale store could open.

Development website: AHomeForNapans.com

Project documents submitted to Napa County: countyofnapa.org/787/Napa-Pipe-Project

It’s been 13 years since the plan was hatched to transform a 154-acre riverfront industrial plant south of Napa into a mixed-use community for hundreds of residents and businesses. It may not look like a lot is happening at the sprawling former Napa Pipe property, but the project actually is a passing a major milestone.

Yes, project entitlements were secured from the city and county of Napa six years ago, around the time that a major commercial tenant — Costco Wholesale — was lined up. But lurking literally under the surface was a significant worry for many real estate developers, particularly for an industrial plant operated for decades before strict state and federal environmental rules arrived.

“The biggest task for us after entitlement was to make it a clean site,” said Keith Rogal, head of Napa Redevelopment Partners LLC.

That was a big undertaking and is nearing completion.

The site first went into industrial use in the mid-1930s as a sand and gravel quarry. Basalt Rock Company then spun the helm toward shipbuilding abruptly in 1941 as the U.S. entered World War II. The plant’s four former drydocks along the Napa River are reminders of that history, where about 150 oil tankers, mine layers and salvage tugs were constructed for the war effort, according to the Napa Valley Register.

In the decades after World War II, the former rock quarry and ship building site transitioned to making very large steel structures: distribution pipes for Napa County’s Lake Hennessey reservoir, transbay tubes for Bay Area Rapid Transit, offshore oil rigs.

Southern California-based Kaiser Steel, an early funding source for the family fortune that funded the Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization, purchased the plant from Basalt in 1955. Oregon Steel Mills bought the plant in 1987, reopening it after a year idle, and ran it until its closure in 2004. The property was sold to Napa Redevelopment Partners a year later.

The years of production led to soil and groundwater contamination by diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, motor oil, solvents and metals, according to San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board documents.

The first of four approved phases for the Napa Pipe redevelopment project involves restoration of wetlands that bisect the southeastern corner of the property and just north of Bedford Slough, finish underground remediation for the Costco store and gas station site on the eastern edge of the property, and construction of access roads and bridges to the store from Kaiser Road to the north and Anselmo Court to the south.

SCALE OF REMEDIATION

Quarry-scale machinery started rolling onto the site last fall to tear down existing buildings, find the extent of contamination that needed to be cleaned and move around the soil and rubble. Project consultants worked with water board staff to delineate the problem soil and work through the details of a remedial design and implementation plan that was approved seven years prior.

About 160,000 cubic yards of soil were removed from the site and processed for contaminants, Rogal said. It can be difficult to grasp how much material that is, but think of it this way: The soil flagged for remediation at Napa Pipe could have filled the 48,000-cubic-yard rotunda at the U.S. Capitol — the circular room under the dome — roughly three and a half times.

Napa Pipe project

Size: 154 acres

Address: 1025 Kaiser Road, Napa

Developer: Napa Redevelopment Partners, LLC

Cost at buildout: $500 million (estimated)

Timeline:

  • Mid-1930s: Plant opened as sand and gravel quarry
  • 1941: Plant converts to a shipyard for the World War II effort
  • Post-World War II: Plant shifts to large industrial projects
  • 2004: Plant closed
  • 2005: Napa Redevelopment Partners purchases the land
  • 2012: Costco Wholesale store is added to the project. Development agreement is approved.
  • Fall 2017: Site remediation starts.
  • Late 2018-Early 2019: Remediation set for completion.
  • 2020-2021: Costco Wholesale store could open.

Development website: AHomeForNapans.com

Project documents submitted to Napa County: countyofnapa.org/787/Napa-Pipe-Project

Part of the remediation plan was for biotreatment of the soil to break down petroleum products such as diesel. Also called land-farming, this process involves tilling the ground so that volatile compounds evaporate. When tests on the soil came back clean, the material could be put back into the ground as fill for roads and the Costco parking lot.

The water board gave the developers the option of remediating the soil to residential or commercial California human health screening levels (CHHSLs) set by the California Environmental Protection Agency. Rather than going with a commercial standard or capping the affected ground, the developers pursued the “unrestricted residential” level.

“It’s as if there had not been industry on the site,” he said. The cost of the remediation part of the project alone has been $15 million so far. At full build-out of the project, the estimated cost is roughly $500 million, according to Rogal.

WHEN WILL COSTCO OPEN?

Land-farming contaminated soil requires warm, sunny days and not a lot of rain, so the final water board process may stretch until the end of this year or spring, Rogal said.

When the water board gives the green light to the remediation of the 16-acre Costco site, that part of the construction can start. But before the 154,000-square-foot membership warehouse store can emerge from the ground, engineering and construction plans for utilities and other site improvements need to be completed. The Napa Pipe project is in an unincorporated area of the county but will be served by city services, so both governments are reviewing the submitted ideas.

“Our hope is that, weather permitting, we can move toward horizontal improvements in the next construction cycle,” Rogal said.

In addition to time needed for receiving contractor bids, there are other factors that can affect the arrival of Costco. Improvements in the first phase include bridges over wetlands, field review and construction for those aspects can’t take place during certain times of the year.

Once Costco gets the OK to start building, the Washington-based company is committing to getting that part done in about 110 days, Rogal said.

“I can’t give a lot of guidance, but you could be seeing Costco in the next 18 to 24 months,” he said. “It’s not that far away. We’ve done a huge amount of work. Many in Napa do not think we’ve done anything. There has been massive equipment moving, but the site is so far away from the highway they don’t notice. The most uncertain element is behind us: What is in the ground; can we get it all out and make it clean?”

Other phases of the project include construction of 700 to 945 dwellings in attached housing arrangements, a 150-room hotel on the waterfront, a 10-acre school and a retirement-housing center. Around the waterfront would be local retail and restaurant space, styled after the maker approach of The Barlow development in Sebastopol.

REUSE A BIG PART OF THE PROJECT

While redevelopment of the Napa Pipe plant is involving demolition of the metal and concrete buildings that sprouted up at the new riverfront shipyard seven decades ago, a landmark elements and some of the building materials themselves will find a new home at the reworked site as key visual reminders of the industrial past, Rogal said.

The towering swivel crane at the water’s edge will remain, as will the arch overhead crane at the mouth of one of the drydocks and the steel frame along which an overhead crane would roll to transport massive pipe sections to the now-removed X-ray building to check for imperfections.

The overhead crane arch is envisioned to be used to hold lights and a screen for public events like concerts and movies held in the bottom of the adjoining drained and sealed drydock. The drydock next to it would be converted partly to a public pool with a poolhouse. The other two drydocks would be outfitted with as launches for small boats and a boathouse.

Napa Pipe metal buildings that were taken down are being sold for scrap. The concrete buildings and their massively thick floors were broken up and piled on site for eventual crushing as road base and other uses. There’s about 60,000 cubic yards of that

Adding to that “impressive pile” have been drop-offs from area road and dredge projects. For example, San Rafael-based Ghilotti Bros. brought in clean asphalt rubble from the Jameson Canyon widening of Highway 12 through to the Fairfield area.

And the Army Corps of Engineers brought some of hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of silt dredged along 13 miles of the Napa River between the Oxbow bend in downtown Napa south toward Vallejo. Barges parked along the Napa Pipe bank and deposited soil to allow it to dry properly.

All this fill is set to go toward one of Rogal’s passions: preparing for the effects of climate change. To future-proof the project from anticipated sea-level rise, 63 acres of the waterfront would be elevated by 3 feet.

A building that is remaining is the plant’s former pump house. The small concrete building at the south end of the property has been reworked as the development office, with archival photos of the plant’s history. Picture frames are made from reclaimed redwood paneling from the property, and reclaimed light fixtures, railings and staircases have been added to it.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Contact him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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