The future home of Napa’s city government may be an edifice on downtown First Street in metal, glass, wood and concrete, with two halves set aside for the police and other city offices – and a council chamber out in front where citizens can easily see the place where elected leaders do their work.

Such was the vision of the future Napa City Hall offered on Tuesday, when architects and designers provided an early look at the project to the City Council and Planning Commission. The presentation offered new details on the possible look and function of the First Street civic center, which the council approved in May to replace Napa’s current police station and its undersized City Hall on Second Street.

Tuesday’s preview opened a period of public review for the project design, which will continue with two community meetings planned before the end of January.

Artist renderings and models from Napa’s development partner Plenary Group and the San Francisco architecture firm Woods Bagot gave city leaders a glimpse at a four-story structure of at least 130,000 square feet, which would go up a block west of the present-day City Hall at 1600 First St. and replace the Community Services Building.

In addition to building the civic center, Napa will remove its current downtown fire station and build a 13,167-square-foot replacement at Seminary and Clay streets on the present site of the city Housing Authority, directly north of the new City Hall.

To replace the existing city and police block on Second Street, Napa’s pact with Plenary includes hotel, housing and retail development on the current City Hall block, as well as arranging temporary work space for city agencies while the new and old city sites are built out. Plans call for the mixed-use complex to feature 225 to 275 hotel rooms and 90 to 110 condominiums, whose tax revenue will help pay off construction bonds on the civic center.

Renderings of the new City Hall show a clean-lined structure in midcentury-style idiom, shaded with a flat canopy supported by slender beams. A glassed-in central courtyard would divide the bottom three floors into a section for Napa Police and another section to unite the city departments currently spread over seven sites, including three leased spaces that cost the city $300,000 a year.

The most visible departure from earlier sketches is a shift of the City Council chamber from the building’s interior to the wall facing First Street, at the corner of Washington Street and next to a broad plaza. Meetings would take place in a broad, low-slung, gently arched space protruding from the façade and containing movable chairs instead of the current chamber’s fixed seating, thus opening the hall to diverse uses and even event rentals.

The splitting of City Hall’s two main sections – along with elements like the top floor’s deep setback and large notches bringing more light and air onto two walls – will lessen the apparent mass of the 60-foot-tall building and bring it into a more residential-style scale, according to Patrick Daly, director of Woods Bagot.

Offices are to be arranged according to the need for easy access by the public, Daly said, with housing, homeless and youth services reachable from street level, as well as the nighttime police entrance. Public works and community development staff would be based on the second floor, and the city manager, attorney, clerk and back-office operations on the third.

While mostly supporting the future City Hall’s basic concept, planning commissioners found room to improve the site at its margins.

Although the civic center plan includes a 320-vehicle annex to the Clay Street parking garage just east, Beth Painter emphasized the need for parking closer by for residents paying bills or doing other errands requiring quick entry and exit. She and other planners also sought more of a regional touch – and a less austere look – to the architecture.

“A little bit of this building says ‘Napa’ to me, but not a lot,” said Painter.

“A lot of our people already feel trepidation walking into City Hall, so let’s make it a little warmer and more inviting,” added Commissioner Michael Murray.

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The civic center’s fourth floor, which may enclose between 18,000 and 24,000 square feet, could be rented to private companies for extra revenue or provide city departments with room to grow. But Councilwoman Doris Gentry urged keeping the top story a moneymaker for as long as possible.

“I like having that fourth floor, but I don’t want to just give (city employees) bigger offices,” she said. “We need to consider it to be space we can be renting, not occupying.”

City staff members estimated the total office space for most Napa agencies will remain about the same after the new headquarters opens – simply gathered in one place instead of seven. By contrast, the police department’s portion of the building would more than double the 24,000 square feet of their current home, which also suffered damage in the 2014 earthquake and no longer meets building codes for public safety structures.

On the whole, Councilman Scott Sedgley saw the City Hall design as a solid step toward a building that could remain a showpiece for two generations.

“Before, I thought it had a state institutional look, and now it has a stately institution look,” he said. “It’ll be 60 years before we can do this again, so it’s important that we do it well and do it elegantly.”

Plenary won Napa’s support this spring for its civic building, which the City Council selected over a competing project that would have shifted city and police offices a mile east to Soscol Avenue. In September, Napa opened a two-year negotiation period with the Los Angeles firm to design and build the next City Hall at 1600 Main St. – at the site of the Community Services Building – and then operate and maintain it for its first 30 years.

City departments are expected to vacate existing offices toward the end of 2018 ahead of groundbreaking, then occupy temporary quarters for up to 2 ½ years.

Construction, financing and transitional office space will cost about $110 million, according to documents provided by Plenary. The company will set a final price for Napa to pay when the design is 50 percent complete.


City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.