Napa Valley Commons

New design standards approved by Napa Valley Commons’ board of directors seek to update architecture and landscaping at the commercial complex, which opened in the 1980s as Napa Valley Corporate Park.

J.L. Sousa, Register

After more than three decades, directors of the Napa Valley Commons are readying changes at the city’s largest office park – starting with the way its visitors get around it.

A design package approved by the corporate park’s owners’ association calls for more sidewalks and bicycle paths at the complex off the Napa-Vallejo Highway, where roads built with cars in mind now channel visitors to the Meritage Resort and Spa and other businesses once undreamed of for an business colony.

The overhaul also is intended to gradually update the look of buildings and green spaces on the campus, which opened in the 1980s as Napa Valley Corporate Park.

The additions of walking corridors and crosswalks will do more than cater to a new generation of Napans willing to travel without their cars, directors of the Commons said last week in a presentation to the city Planning Commission. The new links also will connect to the Vine Trail and the Napa Pipe housing and retail community set to be built directly west, while helping foster commercial and hospitality uses on the grounds, representatives said of the plan. The Commons’ board of directors approved the plan in February 2016.

“After 30 years, the board felt it was time to look at what will come in during the next 30 years,” said Jay Spangenberg, principal of Advanced Property Management, which oversees the Commons’ daily operations.

Board members of the Commons will review a schedule for installing the changes, he said.

The shift in the Commons’ design code comes amid gradual changes in the makeup of businesses occupying its grounds — a mix that now includes Napa County’s Health and Human Services department, a state Department of Motor Vehicles branch and several wine tasting rooms.

Elsewhere, the Meritage resort, which debuted in 2006, is in the midst of an expansion that will add 145 rooms, a wine tasting “village”, boutique market and other amenities expected to attract more customers on foot and bike.

A key to the change will be to make roadways friendlier to Napans other than those driving to and from office jobs at the Commons, Spangenberg said. The addition of walking corridors will include a pathway along Bordeaux Way near the Meritage, as well as a set of crosswalks at Napa Valley Corporate Way and the Napa Valley Corporate Drive.

“To take a walk now you have to risk your life walking by a semi-truck, and that’s not OK,” he said of the Commons’ lack of walkable space.

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Other elements of the Commons’ design code appear to streamline and update its appearance rather than transform it. New and renovated buildings are to be contemporary and not reproductions of older style, while the grounds will gain more trees and landscape plants native to the North Bay and resistant to drought, according landscape engineer Lance Walker of WATG, an Irvine design firm working with the Commons.

While the corporate park’s design standards run parallel to the city’s own land-use policies rather than replacing them, the update drew the admiration of one city planner.

“I guess this is why they call it ‘planning,’ said Commissioner Alex Myers. “This is the type of foresight that provides a valuable asset for a lifetime, not just a generation.”

Spangenberg, of Advanced Property Management, agreed that preparing a once office-dominated area for future business changes will be paramount.

“The business park is like this now, but what could it be?” he said “For the people who are here now, and the people who are coming?”

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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.