Mixed-use project pitched for Oxbow district

City evaluating design of four-story building
2014-04-21T14:24:00Z 2014-04-22T13:17:15Z Mixed-use project pitched for Oxbow districtJENNIFER HUFFMAN Napa Valley Register
April 21, 2014 2:24 pm  • 

A San Francisco-based developer has submitted a pre-application to build a four-story mixed-use project at the southeast corner of First Street and Soscol Avenue, at the entrance to the Oxbow district. The project is estimated to cost $8 million.

James Jensen is the owner of the small vacant parcel sandwiched between Soscol and Napa Valley Wine Train tracks.

According to his representative, Dennis Honrubia, Jensen felt that with an improving economy and increased tourist influx, “this would be the perfect opportunity to contribute to the community” by adding new housing and commercial space.

Tentatively named the Gran Via, the approximately 28,000-square-foot building will feature four floors plus a basement for parking. The 7,000-square-foot first floor is intended for a restaurant, with 6,000 square feet of commercial space on the second floor and 11 residential units on the third and fourth floors.

The developer is planning one- and two-bedroom residential units. Public art will orient to the street intersection. Both the commercial and residential units will include balconies. Plaza spaces will offer river views. A preliminary artist’s rendering depicts a multi-story windowed entrance.

Another Napa developer, Andrew Siegal, just received approval for his own mixed-use project in the Oxbow, north of First and east of the Wine Train tracks. Referred to as the Black Elk project, it will encompass three floors with underground parking, a ground-floor restaurant, some commercial space and three units of housing.

“Napa is a boomtown,” said Siegal. “There’s a lot going on.” While he wasn’t familiar with the Gran Via project, “I’d like to see something happen to that lot,” he said of Jensen’s parcel.

“I love that idea of residential in downtown,” said Siegal. “It just makes sense.” Another restaurant would likely complement the other dining options currently in the area, he said.

“The southeast corner of First and Soscol is a gateway to the Oxbow District and a link to the downtown core,” said Jennifer La Liberté, economic development manager with the city.

“From an urban planning and economic development perspective, it is important that the scale and design of any development on the site is compatible and representative of the district, which in turn would attract uses that resonate with the character of the area and help strengthen the special place that the Oxbow District is and continues to become,” she said.

Rick Tooker, the city’s Community Development director, noted a cluster of new projects proposed for central Napa, including the Archer Hotel, Copia’s redevelopment, Siegal’s Black Elk project and the apartments planned for Gasser Foundation land along the Napa River.

“What we’re seeing are substantial projects coming on line at various stages, which is very exciting,” he said. Tooker attributed the increase to an improving real estate market and post-recession economic recovery.

“Napa has been ‘discovered’ or is on the radar in a way that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” said Tooker. “Gran Via is certainly an illustration of these other projects” already underway, he said.

While the Gran Via is only in the early planning stages, “context is everything in design,” Tooker said. “The question that has to be asked is ‘What is this? Is that the place where you put a four-story building?’ I don’t know the answer,” he said. “It’s conceptual at this point. This is the beginning of a process where we need to explore what’s appropriate.”

This style is more of a “look at me” design, “as opposed to falling back within the context of the site” as Siegal’s project did, Tooker said.

Honrubia said the design is meant to evoke a European style. “It’s bringing the design from the past to the future, combining elements of excitement from the historic past,” he said. “The form of the building, the functionality (and) the circulation” create something exciting for today’s users, he said.

Honrubia said he thought the city wanted something to designate the entry to the Oxbow district. “That’s why we thought we needed some towering elements,” he said. “But we will respond to whatever they are going to say and of course we will follow their design recommendations.”

If all goes as planned, construction could begin at the beginning of 2015 and be completed by 2016, said Honrubia.

Copyright 2016 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(27) Comments

    Report Abuse
    VNYD DUC - April 21, 2014 2:51 pm
    Looks great. Build it. Although I do enjoy watching the geese congregate on this vacant lot. And for the love of Allah, when will the City condemn and repurpose the Greenberg Motors lot! What a waste. I'm sorry Mr. Greenberg (whoever you are) but you can sell your wares elsewhere. And take your hideous sign with you, do it for the greater good. That whole strip of Soscol needs major work and eminent domain will be a great tool to get this area looking right. Viva La Gran Via!
  2. circa1958
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    circa1958 - April 21, 2014 6:00 pm
    Probably the ugliest building we've ever seen in napa in a very long time
  3. Michael Haley
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    Michael Haley - April 21, 2014 6:06 pm
    This is good news, I am especially enthusiastic about the idea of putting some housing together with new businesses in the downtown area. And why not have it be a look at me design? Napa needs something new, maybe we need a new context too.
  4. bowlerhat
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    bowlerhat - April 21, 2014 8:09 pm

    You are so right, thank you!
  5. Valid8everything
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    Valid8everything - April 21, 2014 9:07 pm
    I thought April fools day was yesterday. This is the most ridiculous idea I've heard yet for the Oxbow. Where in Napa has a mixed use building ever succeeded? Why would anyone wish to operate a retail business on the second floor of any building? Finally, who in the world would be both dumb enough to live over 6000 square feet of retail space and wealthy enough to pay the rent, witch will be a mind boggling sum. It would be a blight before it was even complete. What are we paying our city planners for anyways if it is not to keep ideas like this one out of our minds.
  6. calbare
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    calbare - April 21, 2014 10:46 pm
    a one or two story development *might* look ok, but a monstrosity building at 4 stories looks out of character with the rest of the buildings in the area. Back to the drawing board on this idea.
  7. BlueLight
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    BlueLight - April 22, 2014 12:09 am
    Plus One more for what VNYD DUC said!!
  8. fergusson
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    fergusson - April 22, 2014 5:26 am
    Very Ugly Design…….Watch out here they come, Developers with bad Architects. Napa demand more from the developers on what they put in front of you. Design looks like anywhere USA.
  9. Loui Loui 707
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    Loui Loui 707 - April 22, 2014 5:55 am
    A basement for parking? I hope it doesn't flood.
  10. glenroy
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    glenroy - April 22, 2014 6:46 am
    That's thing is horrible....

    Another out of town developer bringing a _rapy looking development along with em.

    Leave that space open....the lot is so small you wouldn't even think it's buildable.
  11. Old Time Napkin
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    Old Time Napkin - April 22, 2014 7:34 am
    Ugly building and a bad idea. Four stories is way too much.Who would want a residence next to the train tracks? Train runs 3 or 4 times a day and always blows the horns at that intersection. Getting in and out onto First St. will be a nightmare.
  12. Cadence
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    Cadence - April 22, 2014 7:51 am
    Why not make it eight stories? That way there would be more shade for everyone outside and more needed housing units. Two or three floors could be affordable or low cost housing.
  13. Mashed Potatoes
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    Mashed Potatoes - April 22, 2014 8:19 am
    Why has the Wiseman Company been able to build 3 multi-story buildings on Main Street with no parking when these projects on the Oxbow have onsite parking?
  14. neinster
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    neinster - April 22, 2014 8:27 am
    Criminy that is one ugly building. How many architectural motifs can we glue to this box to make it look "interesting" to a panel of hayseeds. Or maybe that's how they view Napa. Lop off a story or two and come up with a building that is in balance with the small lot it occupies and the old Oxbow neighborhood.
  15. Scott B
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    Scott B - April 22, 2014 8:36 am
    This area is up and coming and looks like a promising site. I see tourist walking across this area quite a bit. When the Copia building is opened, flood project walkway completed, and 5 star hotel built this area will be jumping. It also is an infill project and not an urban sprawl development. Another plus!
    I do have a problem with the design of the building. This looks like an Orange County glass building. Napa has a more indoor/outdoor building architecture. When will Gorden Huther comment on this building design? I always love to hear what he has to say. Usually for my own entertainment.
  16. Peggy J
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    Peggy J - April 22, 2014 8:57 am
    This definitely needs to be toned down. It will ruin east side valley views from downtown napa too.
  17. Mickey Mouse Napa
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    Mickey Mouse Napa - April 22, 2014 9:44 am
    Didn't the City of Napa spend one millions dollars or more on the last project?
    And then there was the one million dollar trolley on wheels that only attracted our less fortunate to ride all day for free. I hope our city coffers aren't spending a dime on this.
    Remember, it's in a flood zone.
    Let's plan wisely on this and build whatever to it's highest and best use.
  18. 4GNapan
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    4GNapan - April 22, 2014 9:46 am
    no..just.. NO.. that's a postage stamp sized lot, that should simply be another mini park / open space. It should absolutely not be this ugly monstrosity.
    It utterly destroys the character of the area.
  19. NV 50
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    NV 50 - April 22, 2014 11:42 am
    Couldn't agree more !
  20. NV 50
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    NV 50 - April 22, 2014 11:46 am
    "It's in the water" in Napa....
  21. Napa Mark
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    Napa Mark - April 22, 2014 7:51 pm
    This building is too tall for the site and looks like it belongs in Walnut Creek. Perhaps they should build it there. It doesn't even look like it belongs in Napa. What a shame that the city keeps approving projects that screen out the hills that make our valley. I hope this doesn't turn out to be another one.
  22. Napa Mark
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    Napa Mark - April 22, 2014 7:53 pm
    Agreed, '58. Did the builders even consider the location?
  23. naparealestate
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    naparealestate - April 22, 2014 9:09 pm
    It's developer strategy 101. Propose the ugly 4-story building. Planning commission says "tone it down" and approves a 3-story building . Developer gets what s/he wanted all along.
  24. ModeDevelopment
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    ModeDevelopment - April 23, 2014 6:11 pm
    $8M for 11 apartments and a 6,000sf restaurant is an absolute pipe dream. Under no circumstances does that make financial sense whatsoever. So unless the "developer" just has a bucket of cash they are looking to burn I doubt this will get financed or ever turn a profit. Napa needs developers who understand urban infill development. Being from Napa originally and moving to Seattle to work with some of the most creative infill developers in the industry I am looking forward to getting started on my first project in downtown Napa (www.m-ode.com). Can we please stop these uninspiring projects from happening. Napa deserves better and people obviously want more...
  25. ModeDevelopment
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    ModeDevelopment - April 23, 2014 7:29 pm
    Correction: 13k of commercial space (still nutty/horrible design)
  26. Rene
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    Rene - April 28, 2014 10:33 am
    This building looks like a late 70's airport hotel!! Embassy Suites. The question I have is how in the world would an architect even have the dignity to submit this thing! I dont think the owner will ever build though. Every other day he is trying to list his properties for sale and cant het any takers for what he is asking. I love the comment "great way to contribute to the community". Laughable. Its obvious this developer has no intention of building anything.
  27. Cadence
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    Cadence - April 28, 2014 9:16 pm
    Please tell, Michael Haley, how many miles away from this do you live? And please go on to explain why you are so interested in housing in the town of Napa?
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