There's now a video to help Napans ... and prospective tenants -- imagine how Napa Center intends to remake itself in the next two years.

Using computerized artistry, the new owners of downtown's open air mall take viewers on a simulated stroll past a dazzling array of new stores and restaurants clustered around a five-story Archer hotel.

Locals will recognize some familiar landmarks in the video, such as a cork oak tree in the center of the mall, and a former fountain area outside of McCaulou's.

The walkways retain the configuration of today, but the rest of the mall is transformed into a bustling area with busy storefronts and pedestrian traffic. Clay Street, located behind the mall, is dotted with a row of food trucks. It's all a significant change from the empty corridors of the mall of today. 

Trademark Property Co. created the video to promote leasing in the downtown mall, which will offer at least 40 new stores and food and beverage purveyors, along with the new Archer Hotel, said Tommy Miller, managing director and chief investment officer at Trademark Property Co.

“We want to show how this place and a brand-new multi-story hotel will change the way First Street is going to look and feel,” said Miller. “Retailers and restaurant are really asking us to show them how this place is going to feel when it is open.”

What kinds of national or international retailers would he like to see at Napa Center? Miller declined to give specific examples but described them as “aspirational luxury and bridge tenants."

Retailers such as Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Lululemon and Restoration Hardware would typically meet this description, according to Trademark Property Co.

The list of desired tenants does not include luxury stores such as Tiffany or Chanel, he said.

“I don’t think people are necessarily coming to Napa to go to Tiffany or Chanel,” he said, adding that Napa Center won’t be a Napa version of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

“We want this to be for the local community and give tourists cool place to go too, but they all have Tiffany and Chanel in their big cities. We want more approachable, aspirational, upscale but unique offerings,” said Miller.

The goal is to create “a magical place that appeals to everybody,” featuring a number of national and international brand retailers, principally fashion and specialty tenants, said Miller.

“We want to attract the best of the best,” said Miller. In addition, about half or more will be unique local, regional tenants that add to that special feel, he said.

While the owners haven't signed any leases, “We are in active discussions with numerous tenants that have interest,” said Miller. 

Miller said the shops at Napa Center could have some tenants open in 2015 in areas away from the hotel construction, but that has yet to be determined.

"We want to do it right,” he said. “As impatient as we are, we don’t want retailers to be operating in an unfriendly environment.” The Archer Hotel, currently under construction, is projected to open at the site in fall 2016.

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Anchor tenant McCaulou’s has been closed since it was damaged in the earthquake. No news has been released as to whether it will reopen or not. An adjacent large retailer, Kohl’s, is owned by another entity and is not part of the Napa Center project.

Napa developer Todd Zapolski bought the former Town Center mall in 2012. Originally built in 1987 as a centerpiece for downtown redevelopment, the Town Center had seen a decline in tenants, with many storefronts empty.

In 2013, Zapolski announced an equity partnership with Trademark Property Co., a national leasing and development company based in Fort Worth, Texas. Zapolski said the total cost of the development project, excluding the Archer Hotel, ranged from $60 million to $70 million.

Miller said the design and layout of the future Napa Center is in part inspired by elements of shopping areas in San Francisco such as Maiden Lane, Hayes Valley and Fillmore, Chestnut and Union streets.

Other inspirations include the Marin Country Mart, The Grove retail and entertainment complex in Los Angeles and even the historic Marais district in Paris.

Those districts feature “rich storefront mixes of different types of buildings” on urban street grids, which has parallels to the Napa Center project, he said.

“We want to create an environment where people will come and stay in the downtown for an extended period of time, not just for dinner reservations. And have a lot more reasons to walk the street,” Miller said. 

“We want to make sure this environment is truly special and one that evokes memories and creates an emotional connection,” said Miller. The center should be “a place for people who live in Napa to mix with tourists and day trippers … the cool place for people who live here and as well as people who visit here.”

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Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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