Friday, June 12, 2009

Questions About the Future of Downtown Napa Redevelopment and Growth Part 1

By John M. Olney,
Copyright April 22, 2009, all rights reserved by
Wine Country Marketing and Promotions,
1370 Trancas St., #409, Napa, CA 94558
Phone: 707-299-9548
Web site:

- Part 1 -

Mixed Building Use -Office, Retail and Residential

Recently I got interested in just how much empty retail and office space exists in downtown Napa so I went out and photographed all the buildings that are advertised as available to lease/rent, along with those that are obviously empty even if no signage indicated there was space available.

Then right after I did that the NV Register published an article dated April 9, 2009, on the downtown area, The article discussed the City of Napa’s announcement that it was increasing the amount of money it has committed to develop a “Downtown Specific Plan.” The increased fees will add a “15-person Steering Committee” to the plan’s development that is supposed to be available in late 2010.

Old Downtown Napa

The Immediate Downtown Napa Area
I looked at the Napa River Oxbow Redevelopment area, plus, from fifth & Main Street to the south, to Clinton & Main Street to the north, as well as going east and west along 1st, 2nd and 3rd between Soscol and Jefferson Streets, and Clinton and Pearl streets. I also looked along all the side streets perpendicular to first through third streets. Therefore, what I was looking at is all the new construction as well as the old town buildings.

If I was a potential business requiring storefront window visibility for my products, I would definitely not chose many of the older buildings because of their drab appearance or setback, which I believe, would not encourage buyer entrance of the store.

The entire properties located northeast corner at the intersection of first and Coombs - part of the downtown square - is empty as well as two adjacent storefront properties immediately to the east.


Additional First Street empty sites are shown below:

More vacant building borering the Square and First Avenue

On Main Street, to north of The Riverfront and the intersection of Third & Main are these three empty buildings. Immediately around the block on Coombs is this bordered up office.

There are plenty more on primary streets plus a number within the Sqare itself as shown below:

As I walked around, I could not help but notice all the second floor space above older buildings that was obviously not being used. In fact, from the looks of it when I studied the windows, it appeared the upstairs areas have not been used for sometime.

Cost to Upgrade Unused Space
My guess is they would have to be extensively remodeled and brought up to today’s building codes in order to be rented out. Such repairs are probably the greatest hindrance to the building owners refurbishing these upper floor-building spaces.

Then I started thinking about the unused upper floor areas being converted into residential units. Obvious such conversions would be expensive just in terms of bringing the floor space up to today’s building codes but also the owner and/or developer would be looking at major sewage, water and power, etc. hook-up fees to convert the space to residential units. Nevertheless, there are other serious problems with conversion to residential units.

Lack of Parking
Perhaps the greatest impasse would be co-located assigned parking per residential unit. Where do they park and carry their groceries, etc to their home? Perhaps the only way parking could be managed would be to condemn property in strategic blocks and build small, covered parking facilities to service the immediately adjacent surrounding new loft type/ second floor residential units.

Traffic Congestion
New resident parking also begs the question of additional traffic impact in an already hugely complicated and congested one-way road traffic flow plan among narrow streets in the core downtown area mixed with the “stop and go flow” of the mass transit bus system.

Existing Outlets for Food and other Essential Items
The existing Safeway store and the Oxbow Public Market Place are probably just out of most of the walking range for potential downtown residential clients, particular under poor-to- foul weather conditions. Co-located, food & beverage “neighborhood markets” are not currently in existence in the immediate downtown area and thus any potential residents would be faced with too long of a walk to go shopping for daily needs. That is, unless there are some risk takers willing to open such businesses if residential housing is promised to come in. This factor could represent a major obstacle to the growth of mixed housing & business co-location in the core downtown area.

New Existing and Under Construction Office/Retail Buildings Space

Looking at the new buildings, I would have to consider how much I’m going to have to pay per sq ft to gain their new slick appearance which I believe will attract potential customers. Therefore, I would have “looks” versus “lease/rent cost “determinations to make.

Within the last year, the following buildings either were opened or are still under construction in the downtown area.

27,000 sq-ft Main Street West at Main and Clinton
The corner first floor street level space is occupied by a restaurant facility. A recent local newspaper article quoted the manager of the property as saying that less than 10,000 sq ft remai8n to be leased out.

40,000 sq-ft Riverfront at first and Main streets (under construction) A recent newspaper article reported that none of the first floor retail space is leased as of mid April 2009.

7,400 sq-ft Zeller Building on 1st St.

The two street level, store front spaces show signs of renters coming and the interiors are being built at this time.

66,000 sq-ft Napa Square at 1st and Franklin streets (Under construction) A recent local newspaper article reported that at least two thirds of the building is leased out.

2,500 sq-ft Avia's Boutique Inn on at 1st and Franklin streets (Under construction)

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