A new Napa building will become a base for city maintenance work. But first, it will be the police department’s home away from home.

Starting in the spring of 2019, Napa Police will operate from a manufactured 25,000-square-foot building at the city’s Corporation Yard at 770 Jackson St. as work begins on a four-story downtown civic center that will house law enforcement and other city departments.

The new civic center would occupy the block that now contains the Community Service Building on First Street.

The project, which the City Council unanimously approved Tuesday afternoon, marks the first firm plans to provide transitional space for city agencies while their current homes are torn down and a replacement built nearby on First Street.

After the new City Hall’s expected completion in 2021, the structure will serve as workshops, storage and offices for the Public Works department but will also host a dispatch center, which will be built for Napa Police and remain as a backup after the agency moves out.

Public Works Director Jacques LaRochelle estimated the building’s cost at $5.6 million, with move-in taking place around May 2019. By contrast, leasing trailers to host police operations for two years would cost about $4.1 million, and leasing land for those trailers could drive up the price tag to $7 million, he told the council.

LaRochelle predicted Napa will need to finance a corporation yard center separately from the civic center project, for which the developer Plenary Group has been selected.

The Corporation Yard building may be only the first element in a radical rethinking of the 8.9-acre corporation yard, a valuable city-owned parcel close to downtown in a community marked by soaring property values.

Council members discussed eventually separating a 3-acre northern section of the yard along Lincoln Avenue for about 60 units of affordable housing, as well as reclaiming the 1.8-acre next-door site of the VINE bus yard when the Napa Valley Transportation Authority completes a move of the service facility south near Napa County Airport.

Such an overhaul has been favored by Napa officials because of the block’s nearness to businesses, schools, shopping and public buses – a combination that may reduce the strain on local traffic.

Councilmembers agreed that few other pieces of land – particularly those already in city hands – can meet police and public-works needs for space, communications, and secure storage for vehicles and evidence over two years.

“It’s secure, it’s convenient, it’s close in – I think it’s ideal,” said Councilmember Scott Sedgley. “I don’t think we can operate a corp. yard that’s out of the industrial park; you can’t put it too far away. It’s here, it’s city-owned, and we can get there quicker than if we go somewhere else.”

Napa’s various city agencies are seeking temporary quarters during construction of the civic center, which will take place at the same time as demolition of the current City Hall and police station on the block bordered by First, School, Second and Seminary streets.

A combination of hotel, housing and retail development will take up the present-day City Hall block, with tax revenues defraying the cost of construction bonds for Napa’s $110 million city headquarters.

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