Top 10

Top 10: New owners craft vision for downtown shopping hub

Incoming stores and hotel may be announced in 2013
2012-12-30T21:05:00Z 2012-12-31T19:34:14Z Top 10: New owners craft vision for downtown shopping hubJENNIFER HUFFMAN Napa Valley Register
December 30, 2012 9:05 pm  • 

After years of speculation, a new owner stepped forward in 2012 to purchase the languishing Napa Town Center, which had become a drag on the fortunes of downtown.

In May, Napa developer Todd Zapolski and partners bought the Town Center and a string of adjacent commercial buildings on First Street: the Dunne Building, the former California Savings Bank building and the former Merrill’s Drug Store.

In total, the newly renamed “Shops at Napa Center” will feature 156,000 square feet of retail space, with the owners promising to go after retailers that would bolster downtown as a place to shop, not just eat and sip wine. A hotel is also part of Zapolski’s plans.

Built in the late 1980s, the First Street open-air mall had been most recently owned by George Altamura and partners, who had gradually phased out long-term leases and touted empty storefronts as a plus for any buyer who wanted a fresh start at leasing.

“Closing this purchase is significant,” Zapolski said at the time. It was no coincidence that the deal was completed at the same time the city’s Downtown Specific Plan was finalized.

“The Downtown Specific Plan was critical to getting our deal done,” he said. “There is a broad level buzz about the revitalization of downtown Napa, and this redevelopment will play a key role in furthering that.”

Major tenants of the center include Ben & Jerry’s, Gillwoods Café, McCaulou’s, Mustard Seed Clothing Co., Napa Valley Jewelers and the Napa Valley Toy Company. Napa Center is shadowed by Kohl’s department store, which was not purchased. Gillwoods has since announced it will leave the center in May 2013.

“Our vision for the Shops at Napa Center is to create a vibrant retail center that will complement the evolving downtown community and offer a shopping destination for residents and visitors that entertains all the senses,” Zapolski said at the time.

Starting in 2013, the owners are planning to remodel the center. A batch of new retail leases is promised for early in the year. At one point, an Apple retail store was mentioned, but no leases have been announced.

“The architecture and design of the properties will be refreshed considerably to reflect a modern agrarian feel that is authentic to Napa,” the owners said in a news release. “We are moving very deliberately to attract a robust mix of national, regional and local tenants to downtown Napa that will create a gathering space to shop, dine and celebrate.”

The developer also plans a hotel at the site of the former Merrill’s. Zapolski said he will likely work with a hotel developer to bring lodging to the heart of downtown.

“We have one serious group that is interested,” he said in August. Depending on who that is, the hotel could be as high as seven stories and include from 70 to 150 rooms.

Constructed in 1987 as a centerpiece for downtown redevelopment, the Town Center had gradually seen a decline in tenants, with many storefronts empty.

The Altamuras teamed up with the Doctors Company of Napa in 2002 to buy the center for $16.25 million. Since then, the owners had tried numerous times to sell the center and redevelop portions of it with multi-story additions.

In 2004, Altamura, Jr. floated the idea of razing the eastern half of the center for a six-story Ritz-Carlton hotel that would have also covered the site of the old Merrill’s.

In 2005, the Register reported that the owners had a tentative deal to sell the property for $40 million, but that sale did not go through.

In 2007, the owners announced plans for a five-story retail and condominiums project, but the complex did not materialize. A renewed leasing plan was launched in 2009, but with few results.

Zapolski declined to say how much he paid for the property, but in November, he estimated that the investment will total $60 million to $70 million.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. pettonap
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    pettonap - December 30, 2012 9:38 pm
    All I want is an Apple store. The former California Savings and Loan building is a perfect cube... so Apple. Apple would serve residents as well as tourists. I'm tired of driving to Walnut Creek or Corte Madera.... WE NEED APPLE!
  2. Lynn W
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    Lynn W - December 31, 2012 6:06 am
    Apple Store for sure. Please stick to three story limit. I look forward to more progress, downtown has changed for the better the past decade. Glass half full, Glass half full, Glass half full, Glass half full!
  3. funnyme
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    funnyme - December 31, 2012 6:08 am
    YES an Apple store!!!!...please?

    I'm very curious though as to what other businesses are interested in coming and/or negotiating.

    I'm sorry Gilwoods is leaving (relocating or closing down?); there's barely any breakfast places in Napa, really.
  4. BBS
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    BBS - December 31, 2012 8:06 am
    It's ironic that an apple store is mentioned.. My son and I love walking downtown and playing developers.. I would place an apple store in and try to duplicate Santana Row in San Jose.... You will bring in the revenues and shopping like Napa has never seen before. People want to have great wine - great food - AND great shopping... The down-town has been so mismanaged and finally we have real thinkers. Those that think mom and pop stores is where it's at, history doesn't lie! Look at Starbucks. Regardless how you feel, the foot traffic and business/feel IS there.. Make this happen!!! I love it and can't wait.. Made my day!
  5. chunk215
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    chunk215 - December 31, 2012 8:41 am
    What's so good about an Apple store and why is it "needed." Everyone walking around like zombies on their iPhones is enough already. I went to my girlfriends for Xmas and all the kids were more into their handheld tablet or video game that I barely talked to them. How fun is that? People NEED to step back from the digital in your face toys. Maybe a downtown fitness boot camp would be cool. Have clients running and working out in the middle of the plaza. It would be good motivation for others. Maybe.
  6. Misfit
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    Misfit - December 31, 2012 9:08 am
    The problem with this center is it lacks "energy". The first time I visited the center was, during a Chef's Market event and I noticed it. The light is horrible. There was no sunlight so, I believe the entire complex needs to be re-situated, to allow more sunlight in. Otherwise, it feels like just a bunch of cold, dark alleys.
  7. Mouse_Nose
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    Mouse_Nose - December 31, 2012 11:07 am
    "Please stick to three story limit."

    Why? Building vertically is the new style of development since land is so precious. Do you want Napa to become a mini-Los Angeles where building out was the norm and urban sprawl took up every last square inch of land? I support unlimited vertical buildings in our town. Gotta get with the times. I encourage our leaders to allow it. They allowed the 5-story hotel on 1st at School St. I hope it sets a new trend of mid-rises.

    I'm with the other commentors. We need an Apple store! I think to compete successfully with other communities we need to make it so that Napans don't need to leave Napa for all their shopping needs. I'd like to see a BestBuy somewhere in town at some point.
  8. selim_sivad
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    selim_sivad - December 31, 2012 3:59 pm
    Interesting that there's a public mention of Apple. I've been hearing rumblings about this "off the record" for a while. I think it would be a smart move for foot traffic because, quite frankly, Apple has a brainwashed consumer base willing to fork out a ton of money on whatever they put in an attractive package. I'll never step foot in the place (just as I won't go into the First Street Starbucks) but I'll support an Apple store simply because of the sheer amount of iZombies opening their wallets for our tax base.

    There needs to be a new full-service (read: no ordering at the counter) breakfast/lunch place downtown. Someplace with a little more character than Gillwood's would be nice. I know people love Gillwood's, and my family does too, but with all of Napa's culinary prowess we should be able to have a bit better in the AM.

    I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of the mall. Perhaps this time next year we'll all be looking toward a new day for downtown Napa retail.
  9. chunk215
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    chunk215 - December 31, 2012 9:58 pm
    Izombies. Love it. I've known a few of those who will buy anything that apple puts out. Sheep.
  10. Lynn W
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    Lynn W - January 01, 2013 6:56 am
    Show me a better operating system on a cell phone and I will bahhhh my way over. The simplicity of the iPhone and iPad have kidnapped this former PC user.
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