NAPA — An empty Napa landmark – one of downtown’s last links to the 19th century – may become home to a restaurant, brewery and bar before the year is out.
The development team seeking to buy the Borreo Building from the city took a large step toward that goal Thursday night, when the Cultural Heritage Commission gave its support to a remodeling of the 139-year-old structure at Third Street and Soscol Avenue.
Kevin Teague, a Napa attorney and member of West Pueblo Partners, said the group plans to start work within two months to redevelop the 9,600-square-foot building, vacant since 2001, into a restaurant and brewery. With a favorable construction schedule, the new eatery may be ready by late December, Teague said.
The city’s support of the restaurant leaves it poised to see the Borreo Building finally occupied after a decade and a half of attempts to find a new purpose for the landmark.
An earlier plan to convert the site into new offices for the Land Trust of Napa County fell through in 2013 after a year of negotiations, and West Pueblo Partners – which includes Teague, members of the Holcomb developer family, and John Nichols of St. Helena – stepped in with a $1.9 million offer, nearly double that of the aborted Land Trust sale. (Napa later approved a $200,000 discount for damage caused by the 2014 earthquake.)
“While everyone was disappointed to have to wait and go around again, it was worth the effort,” said Commissioner Deborah MacDonald.
The vote by the heritage commission granted the project a certificate of appropriateness, which affirms the remodeling would preserve the Borreo Building’s historic value. After approvals from the Planning Commission Jan. 21 and the City Council afterward, West Pueblo Partners would be free to buy the property and start construction.
Named for the Borreo family that formerly owned the historic stone structure, the building, an Italianate Renaissance design made from native-cut stone, was completed in 1877.
Plans filed by West Pueblo Partners include cleaning and repairing the stonework, replacing and repairing windows and doors to their historic designs, and a redesigned drop-off area for guests.
But the key transformation will be a set of six aluminum-and-glass overhead doors – three on each floor – that will be cut into the Borreo Building’s western wall, opening a bare expanse of brick toward a patio that will be built facing the Napa River.
Originally hidden by adjoining buildings that have since been torn down, the west wall has been a barrier separating the Borreo Building from views of the water and downtown, and the move to turn a barrier into a gateway won the favor of commissioners.
“The west side was never intended to be exposed; it was up against another building,” said Commissioner Sarah Van Giesen. “I’m all for the new openings; it’s a fabulous idea for the west face to be enlivened by the city, by the river.
“I think this (plan) is better than what was proposed before. This is saying it’s a historic property, but in a new, fresh way.”
Details about the Borreo Building’s unnamed eatery remain scarce, although a letter accompanying West Pueblo Partners' application in October promised the city “honest, world-inspired cuisine featuring local organic fare, craft brews and more.”