Thirty years after Towpath Village was first built, visitors at the north Napa housing complex are once again greeted by the smell of new carpet and fresh paint.
The former dormitory-style housing for Japan Airlines pilot trainees was bought in 2012 for $11 million by an affiliate of homebuilder Cresleigh Homes. Today, 59 units are being renovated and turned into luxury townhome rentals.
The units will be completely remodeled, as seen in a model home now open at the site. From kitchens to bathrooms and closets to walls, pretty much the only original features that remain are the windows, including the distinctive round portholes found upstairs and down.
In 1986, three years after the homes were constructed, Towpath Village became student housing for the Japan Airlines Flight Crew Training Center operating at the Napa County Airport. Flight training operations ceased in 2010. The housing was owned by an affiliate of the airline company.
During the years of the training program, hundreds of students lived at Towpath Village. Buses would ferry the students back and forth between the townhomes, the airport and local shopping centers.
Though they were originally built as two-bedroom apartments, eventually third bedrooms were created out of downstairs living room areas. The students ate communally at a cafeteria in the clubhouse, eliminating the need for full kitchens in each unit. When Cresleigh purchased the complex, the city required the new owner to remodel the third bedrooms back into living rooms and install full kitchens.
Construction started in the fall and should be complete by this summer, said Vanessa Siebern, director with FPI Management Inc., the management company for Towpath Village.
Rent at Towpath Village will start at $2,300, depending on the size and location of units. Some of the homes include two-car garages, which are uncommon with townhouses, Siebern noted. Ranging from 1,347 to 1,789 square feet, all are two-bedroom units, some with a “study” area that could be converted into a third bedroom. Each features two or two and a half bathrooms.
The newly installed kitchens include brushed aluminum appliances, granite countertops, dark maple wood cabinets and vinyl plank flooring. Full-size washers and dryers are also included in each unit, Siebern noted.
According to a recent report from RealFacts, the average price for a three-bedroom, two-bath townhouse rental in Napa rose 5.1 percent in 2012 to $1,793.
Two additional units, the largest in the Towpath development, will be created from the former clubhouse/cafeteria space.
The ideal Towpath Village renter is someone who wants amenities “a step up” from apartment communities such as Montrachet or Hawthorne Village in Napa, Siebern said. Retired couples, people in the hospitality industry and wine professionals, among others, have inquired about leasing, she said.
There is already a waiting list for the units, according to Siebern.
The name “Towpath” comes from the site’s history. Originally a Wappo-Patwin fishing settlement, the area was used later as a towpath to pull boats along the Napa River.
When an additional 14 units were built in 1992, an archaeologist evaluated the Native American fishing settlement. Two feet of fill dirt were placed over the site, topped by tennis courts, which remain today.