For all its financial failings, Copia did succeed at one thing: helping to change the landscape of downtown Napa.
Before winemaker Robert Mondavi brought his vision for a wine, food and arts center to the city in 2001, you would have been hard pressed to find a wine-tasting room or high-end restaurant in the downtown area.
Shuttered since 2008, Copia’s lasting legacy is that it helped transform the city from the valley’s layby into a viable tourist destination. Copia’s remains rest in the shadow of downtown’s new food and wine culture.
Now, more than three years after Copia’s bankruptcy, developer Keith Rogal and company are busy searching out new uses and new ideas to bring Copia back to life.
What should that reincarnation look like? What fits in this new Napa?
To get to the specifics of what would be most viable in that location, we should be asking what Napa is missing.
Copia’s tragic flaw was that it didn’t appeal to its local base. Napans had little use for it. For as well as the facility catered to food and wine connoisseurs, it couldn’t survive on that market alone.
For a new Napa business to be wholly successful, it needs to appeal to both tourists and local residents. It needs to have a consumer base in Napa to support it when the tourism season ebbs.
“Mixed use” is the phrase most often connected to the future of the site. Office space here? A restaurant there? Retail in between?
Maybe a diverse collection of shops, eateries and small businesses is right, or maybe one tenant could turn the unorthodox site into a company campus, á la a branch of Google or some technology business.
If “mixed use” is the answer, that mix should include a diversity of clientele. New businesses need to appeal to Napans as much as they do visitors.
If, instead, one company wants to plant its flag here and lease Copia’s giant space complete with its theater and gardens, then that business needs to contribute local jobs to the economy and become an active force in this city’s future.
Rogal + Associates appreciate this need, which is why it has solicited the advice of Napans in helping to shape what Copia becomes.
The group has set up an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that you can share your thoughts and perhaps help bring new business to Napa. You can also visit rogal-associates.com for more information.
So, Napa? What do you need?
What do you leave town to get? To eat? Or to do?
What kind of retail is Napa missing? What food do locals most crave? What activities are unsupported or lack the necessary resources? What jobs do we want?
Rogal wants to know. It is a rare thing for a private developer to embrace public input in such an open way.
We applaud the community outreach.
Now it’s up to residents to seize that opportunity. City planning should always include the participation of its residents.
If Copia is to have a successful future, it will have to address the needs of Napans.