Copia South Parking Lot

A Napa developer is proposing building residential housing at the lot south of the CIA at Copia on First Street.

J.L. Sousa, Register

A Napa developer has submitted a pre-application with the city for a mixed-use residential project of 84 to 124 homes at the parking lot located south of the CIA at Copia.

The developer, Wayne O’Connell, is also in talks to buy the First Street site from ACA Financial Guaranty, which controls the property.

“We’re trying to deliver a quality project for this important site in the city,” said O’Connell, who lives in Napa.

“We’re in the early stages and want to meet with neighbors and work with city staff” regarding the redevelopment and his preliminary idea, he said. “We want to do it right.”

Located at 601 and 585 First St., the project could include 40 two-bedroom or 80 one-bedroom “stacked flats” in buildings with parking in ground floor garages. Stacked flats can be compared to townhouses stacked one on top of the other. Another option is condo hotel units.

The project would also include 32 townhomes in as many as seven buildings with parking in ground floor garages, plus 12 smaller-sized single-family homes on very small lots.

“We want to explore what is possible,” O’Connell said. Depending on feedback, “The plan may change.”

The existing parking lot, first built to accommodate visitors to the original Copia complex, has long been considered for redevelopment.

Residential is a natural fit for the spot, O’Connell said. “Downtown would benefit from more housing,” he said, and “the one, two and three priorities,” for Napa is “housing, housing, housing.”

O’Connell declined to give a range of costs for the redevelopment or the cost to buy the land itself.

The parking lot property is 4.9 acres, of which 4.2 acres would be allocated for “upscale” housing with terraces, balconies and rooftop decks.

Parking will “meet and exceed” requirements and will be primarily hidden under the housing, according to the pre-application. An estimated 32 parking spots will remain available for use by the Oxbow Public Market, as per an easement agreement. There are about 170 spaces in the south lot now, he said. While not all are officially reserved for the market, many visitors and employees regularly park in the south lot.

Oxbow Public Market founder Steve Carlin said he was aware that the south lot would be redeveloped at some point.

However, “We are a long way from any development on the south lot at Copia” actually taking place. As for a significant reduction in the amount of available parking, “we will address that issue as it becomes more pertinent,” he said.

The single-family detached homes, described as “small” homes, will be built on very small lot sizes — from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, said O’Connell. The houses themselves will have two-car garage spaces – some tandem – and no street parking.

The size of those single-family homes could range from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet, and include two to three bedrooms.

The stacked flats can range from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet, said O’Connell.

“We will have different configurations based on demographics of buyers,” he said. He’s not yet sure of the number of homes to be sold versus rented.

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The developer said he plans to do a study to best match the product to market needs and demographics. Future residents could be empty nesters who are downsizing, retirees or first-time homebuyers, he speculated.

While prices for the units are not yet known for the single family homes, “I think we have to adjust the price to reflect the lot size,” which would be quite a bit smaller than most new home sites.

If his plans go forward, grading work could be done sometime in 2019, he said. Construction could possibly begin in 2020.

A surplus piece of county land at 933 Water St. is adjacent to the property. Developers have considered future uses of that property as well.

O’Connell said he had looked at the Water Street property but “we haven’t taken a position yet” about making an offer, he said.

The developer is also working on two other Napa projects.

The first is another housing development, Pietro Place — a proposed 171-unit apartment complex on Central Avenue.

The second is a self-storage project at 1890 Pueblo Ave. near Van Winden’s Garden Center.

City planner Kevin Eberle said the next steps for the project include assembling and reviewing comments from city staff.

Then, if O’Connell decides to file a formal application, the project eventually would go before the Planning Commission and City Council.

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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.