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.