Monday, February 09, 2009

"A magnificent emporium from Copia's ashes"

Friday, January 02, 2009
(Opinion page of the Napa Valley Register)
By John Olney

     The entire corridor from Napa River Terrace Street, going along McKinstry to First Street, and then running west and east between Soscol and Silverado Trail, ceased to be an area designed for the vast majority of Napa County residents the day construction began on the redevelopment of the Napa River Oxbow shoreline and properties.With the opening of the Napa River Terrace Inn, Oxbow Public Market, and most recently the Westin Verasa hotel and apartments, this eastern subdivision is becoming the Boardwalk and Park Place of Napa. It should be named “The Copia Oxbow Riverwalk & Drive of Napa Valley.” None of the aforementioned facilities, including the defunct Copia complex, could have been constructed north of Napa because of the land-use constraints of the Agricultural Preserve codes and regulations. These restrictions drove these enterprises to the Oxbow District.
     Clearly, all the existing commercial properties described here, and what could be envisioned to be coming in the near future, will mark this highly valuable property as equal to Rodeo Drive of Beverly Hills, South of Market in San Francisco, downtown Walnut Creek’s redevelopment district and the Santana Row complex of downtown San Jose.The Napa River Oxbow area already represents large tourist room tax, employment salary tax, sales and property tax revenues to the city. As such, you will not see the property under-utilized economically for such noble social benefits — but unprofitable ventures — as teen clubs, skating rinks, farmers markets, jails, homeless shelters and similar projects that could never produce the revenues that such valuable property does and will represent in the near future under development by commercial, for-profit ventures.
     Any realistic market assessment plan for this Boardwalk and Park Place property must not only analyze the product that developer and merchant interests plan to offer, but it must also consider the consumer who is most likely to visit the area. Copia leaders offered the concept of their products of wine, food and art, and then searched for a consumer market that they thought was just sitting around waiting for them. Their assessment was wrong!
     Realistically, the visitor to a tourism area such as Napa has five goals in mind: wine, food, shopping, entertainment and lodging. Developers and merchants should plan to cater to those who stay at the expensive existing lodging facilities both adjacent to and located just short distances away from the Copia complex, as well as future luxury facilities planned for and developed in the Napa River Oxbow area.
     Thus, any concepts for the property must consider the marketable consumer already being attracted to the area because of the lodging facilities, the excursion train and the public marketplace, and package those with fresh marketing concepts that could attract additional consumers to the area.
     They should plan stores, shops and entertainment products attractive not only to the business visitor and tourist but also to the more affluent residents, part-time residents and absentee property/business owners associated with Napa County. These same facilities will also occasionally attract the other residents of Napa County looking for unique jewelry, clothes or gifts for a lover or mate, a night out of celebration and other special events in their lives.
     Specifically, the defunct Copia complex, rising in the middle of the Napa River Oxbow Redevelopment Area, could be transformed into a magnificent emporium offering business travelers, tourists and more affluent locals the upscale facilities they routinely desire, while also offering the remaining locals shopping, dining and entertainment facilities they would no longer have to travel out of town to find in order to satisfy their special occasion needs. As envisioned, Copia would contain art studios, jewelry studios, brand-name men’s and women’s clothing shops, coffee shops, wine tasting rooms, specialty delis, small upscale restaurants and other, similar merchant offerings.
     They should plan facilities to attract the guests from the Meritage Resort, Napa River Inn, the Riverfront complex, Silverado Resort, Auberge Du Soleil, Meadowood Resort, Calistoga Ranch, Solage and other similar upscale facilities catering to those desiring the wine country lifestyle. These are the consumers who also travel to Auction Napa Valley, the Mustard Festival, Robert Mondavi Winery concerts, harvest parties, golf courses and the many membership club events held at more than 200 wineries within Napa County. They fly in, take a limo in or drive themselves in for the amenities that Napa now offers and will expand in the future.

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