Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My opinion:COPIA future in Napa Reg, Dec. 28,2011

Napa Regisyter Home / News / Opinion / Letters to the Editor / Letters to the Editor
Copia should be mixed-use development with high-end shops
Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 12:00 am | 

On Jan. 2, 2009, I wrote my opinion, “A magnificent emporium from Copia’s ashes,” about the Copia facility and its surroundings and it was published in the Napa Valley Register. Since that time, I have been giving considerable thought to what this area could, and should, become.

First of all, this whole area was once known as “Little Italy.” There was no tourism along First and Third streets, between Soscol Avenue and Silverado Trail. Just about where Copia meets the Oxbow in the Napa River, old man Bacigalupi dumped his collected neighborhood garbage into the river to be carried away. The area was about as “local” as it could be. Those days are gone forever, never to be seen again.

The area has been turned into an exclusive visitor and tourism-oriented world with very expensive hotels (River Terrace and Westin), Napa Valley Wine Train excursions terminus and the Oxbow Public Market as major anchors. And, more exclusive visitor- and tourism-oriented businesses are salivating over the possibilities in the near future to be part of this “Park Place and (Boardwalk)” area of downtown Napa.

With the announcement of the Rogal + Associates partnership with owners of Copia to reopen the defunct building and grounds complex, there will be a horde of entrepreneurial business folks anxious to discuss the possibilities of their involvement in its rebirth. Unfortunately, there will be those who will strongly advocate that the complex should be turned into something community-oriented and, as such, would be a nonprofit activity. This should not be considered for such a primary tax revenue–oriented area for two reasons: The latter exclusive use of the facility would probably displease Copia’s neighbors, who pay healthy property tax, etc. and they would want a change in those taxes since a nonprofit would probably lower property tax values throughout the area; and the costs to remodel the facility, and subsequent annual operating and maintenance costs on such a large complex, would be too great for anything but a highly subsidized nonprofit to raise and keep in annual and long-term endowments from private wealthy interests and government agencies.

Remember that Copia was initially a highly endowed nonprofit business that could not sustain its endowments, nor raise sufficient revenues to keep its doors open.

Copia should become a mixed-use building and grounds complex. As I envision the building complex, the entire first floor would contain for-profit, high-end clothing, jewelry, art and other similar shops. It would have small cafes, wine-tasting bars, etc. All of these features would be designed around high-end products and goods.

The entire front garden area would be replaced by a spectacular glass-enclosed building containing additional high-end shops.

The second floor would become home to a five-star nightclub or restaurant seating 300 or so on the eastern third of the building overlooking Napa River and the downtown lights at night. The remaining two-thirds of the upper floor would contain the American Wine Industry Hall of Fame, Museum and Foundation. Within it could reside the California Vintners Hall of Fame, if they were so inclined to move the location from St. Helena.

Based on its accomplishments to date, Rogal + Associates has obviously displayed the forward thinking and business acumen to carry off such a project as I envision.

John Olney / Napa

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