Friday, June 12, 2009

Downtown Napa Redevelopment & Growth Part 3

By John M. Olney, April 22, 2009
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 3

Attracting Resident and Visitor Consumers to Downtown Napa

What COPIA’s Closure Possibly Tells Us
Perhaps the closure of COPIA tells us much more than we think about tourist traffic to, and in and about, downtown Napa.

Interestingly, Napa County reportedly receives about 3.5 million visitors per year, or an average of just fewer than 10,000 per day. The 2007 COPIA reported visitor 150,000 represents an average of just over 400 per day during the year. The total annual visitor amount represents about 4% of the visitors to the county. It is fair to say that there are probably more visitors on weekends (Friday through Sunday) than Monday through Thursday

Using the initial consultant report which suggested that about 500,000 (plus or minus) per year would visit COPIA but then seeing the visitors figure published by COPIA officials for the year 2007 suggests that mostly tourists bypassed the town of Napa for destinations in the northern wine country towns and surrounding wineries.

Other Attraction Considerations
Obviously, the wineries are by far the largest attraction of visitors to the county and because there are so few lodging facilities in the mid to low price range, the vast majority of visitors are here only for the day before they retreat to surrounding cities.

The other large attractions are the fine dining facilities, quality golf courses and the Outlet stores. However, all of the latter remain a single day visit with the exception of the resort type golf complexes of Meadowood and Silverado.

Historical Facts about the City of Napa
As much as government officials, business owners and residents of Napa complain about not seeing significant shopper traffic in the downtown area, they should be looking at what the town is and is not offering both locals and tourists.

Although the city government web site invites people to visit “historical Napa,” it goes no further to explain why it is a historical place to visit.

The City of Napa does not offer a pamphlet or booklet available to locals or tourists that features historical moments and places that made Napa the first and major city of the county back in the 1830’s all the way through time up to today. There should be statues and plaques located at the significant historical sites and near residencies of famous events and individuals associated to the history of Napa. A small sample of early day events and personalities follow:

The corner of Brown/Clinton and Coombs where Nathan Coombs plotted the layout of the original few blocks of the City of Napa.

The site where the first brick building was constructed and where the famous celebrity Trapper and Scout, Kit Carson, laid the first brick in a grand elaborate ceremony. By the way, Carson is also the man who assassinated three Mexican officials at the Soscol Landing (located almost under the Southern Crossing Bridge of Hwy 29) during the Bear Flag Revolt period to take over California from the
Mexican government

The small peninsula where Napa Creek and Napa River meet near Main street where Charles Krug was the “consulting winemaker” who made the wine for Napa’s John Patchett, Napa County’s first commercial winegrower,

The riverfront area embarcadero where all the valley’s wine was warehoused for eventual shipment by boat and rail to San Francisco, and points on around the nation and indeed the world.

The list goes on through the years where other great events and individuals earned fame. Such event/individual highlights could make for interesting walk around or vehicle tours finishing with wine tasting, dining and shopping in the downtown and surrounding areas.

Quite a few famous individuals either resided in the Napa area on a full or part-time basis that could make interesting tours possible.

Where no original building exist today at such sites, there should be photo/artist renditions of what the area/site looked like. These displays would be like what you see when you visit a bird/animal sanctuary or marsh or a vista area area showing and describing the residing species, plants, hills, valley's, etc.

Traffic Flow
The existing mix of the narrow one-way street traffic flow mixed with on-street parking and the centralized bus system passenger transfer depot must be replaced with a much better routing system for traffic and the transit system must be relocated to a downtown fringe area in order to make the downtown area easily accessible to both local and visitor shopper access..

Modernization of Store Fronts and Awnings/Overhangs
Development of plan and funding resource to assist property owners remodel their street front space to give the downtown area a “clean and theme look” so locals as well visitors can casual stroll and shop once again in the downtown area while looking at vibrant, alive buildings rather than cold and drab storefronts.

Consequences of Downtown Redevelopment
A famous old physics statement applies here: “For every action there is an equal reaction”

In order to redevelop the downtown area, the residents, businesspersons and government officials are going to have to accept the fact that office/retail and lodging developers are not going to build structures that cannot earn them reasonable return on their investment.

These developers/business owners are going to demand a road traffic routing system that makes it easy for clients/consumers to access their buildings. This includes sufficient parking both on and off street.

The cleanliness and amenities of new, modern buildings will far out pace the appearances and utility of old time buildings. Unless the owners are willing to make a commitment to making massive improvements and wait out the time it will take to recover their remodeling cost outlay, their buildings will continue to deteriorate and the neighborhood will be abandoned.

Residential housing development is likely only going to come in the form of multi resident buildings - condominium, townhouses, lofts and apartments. Single-family new housing is not likely to occur on any large scale.

The new housing is going to be fairly expense and not likely to be attractive to the older generations reaching the end of their lifespan. They are not going to want to worry about paying off a mortgage again at their ages and lifestyles.

The majority of the heirs of the latter group are not likely to move into their parent’s home; rather they will probably seek developer purchase of the property and just be happy with the inheritance and their modern suburban homes.

Amenities: There is going to a consumer demand that these developers provide the type of mini parks, shops, stores, restaurants, lounges, clubs, etc., that these consumers find attractive or they will not come.


The bottom line is that a downtown area cannot go back to what older residents once perceived it was. Instead, it must modernize through change to today’s designs, technologies and consumers desires.

This will require a stiff spine in planning departments and city councils. It will require downtown merchants to accept, indeed, join in the remodeling/redevelopment process.

To fail to accept and/or do these things will doom the downtown area to a very long and painful but inevitable decline into a skid row neighborhood.

1 comment:

John Salmon said...

Your points are well thought out. You may want to put a link to your Blog on the Facebook Group for the Coalition to Preserve Copia at