The future of the Copia property on First Street could be decided in 2014.
Developer Keith Rogal, who is working with the property owners, has revised his proposed reuse plan for the former Copia site, which operated as a cultural center for wine, food and the arts until it went bankrupt five years ago.
Meanwhile, local developers Harry Price and John Salmon said they hope to make an offer to buy the property and create their own reuse plan for the downtown parcel.
Rogal, the Copia Liquidation Trust and bond holder ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. had extended discussions with the Napa Planning Commission in 2013 over the application process and the zoning for the entire 11-acre property — both north and south of First street.
They are now planning to submit a detailed plan for just the north side of the parcel, leaving the future of the south side for another day, Rogal said last week.
The new plan for the north side of 500 First Street includes a 180-room hotel with underground parking, a “small amount” of retail, some space for commercial use, gardens, outdoor gathering space and other amenities.
New to the north side proposal will be room for meeting, conference and exposition uses, Rogal said.
Price and Salmon have advocated for more meeting space, Rogal noted.
“We’ve listened and are proposing to allocate a large amount of (meeting) space... in our plan,” he said.
Residential housing, an idea originally floated by Rogal’s team for the south side of the property, will not be part of the north side development, he said.
Plan details will be contained in an application that the group will submit to the city by the end of January, Rogal said. He declined to elaborate further until that plan is submitted.
Ideally, “we would want to be building a year from now,” Rogal said. As for developing the south lot, “we will return to that after we all see what makes sense on the north lot.”
“At the direction of the property owner, the Copia Liquidation Trust, we are seeking to create a proposal that implements the vision of the Downtown Specific Plan, meets the desires set out in that process and will have economic value,” he said.
Meanwhile, Price and Salmon are focusing on their own efforts to take control of the property.
“We’re working on putting together the type of commitments we need to make an offer,” said Price. “If or when we reach the point we can make an offer we will do so.”
The two have created a website, viablecopia.org, that details their goals.
“Our plan for the building is to turn the Copia building into a educational conference center focused on wine food and the community,” said Price. “We will derive income from that. But it will be very focused on wine and food and educational programming.”
When asked what entities would operate those various components, Price said, “We have discussions underway on all of those issues.”
“We have to have a plan for operating it or we wouldn’t be going this far,” Price said.
According to viablecopia.org, “We intend for the building to be open to the public and for a slate of free and low cost programs to be available year-round. The economic vitality of the project will be ensured by its conference and special event business line, ongoing support from hotels, as well as office programming and retail leasing. As a community asset it will offer programs to entertain and educate people of all ages and with diverse interests.”
“We have also identified and will capture revenue from new sources,” said the website. “A Viable Copia will operate as a significant source of room nights for area hotels. This will be especially true as the center attracts and hosts mid-week, corporate business and expands the volume of weekend wedding, incentive and social business.”
Rogal said projected demand for conference and meeting space in the Price-Salmon plan needed validation. “Given the history of Copia, it seems we all should be cautious,” he said.
Copia declared bankruptcy in 2008 amid falling attendance and debt totaling $78 million.
“We don’t want to try to solve the problem as a community — the bankruptcy, the $78 million debt and the many years of vacancy — in the same way we got into the problem in the first place,” Rogal said.
The news that Price and Salmon want to buy the Copia property isn’t a surprise to Rogal.
The two men “have had the desire to acquire the property for a long time,” Rogal said.
Neither Rogal or Price would speculate on the cost to buy the property.
“ACA has a big bill they have to pay,” Rogal said. “They need to get as much as they can.”