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Copia

Future uses for the Copia building were discussed at a Planning Commission meeting. Lisa James/Register file photo

If portions of the former Copia building in Napa cannot be leased under a proposed reuse plan, redevelopment efforts could grind to a halt and the building may be forced to close, according to Copia redeveloper Keith Rogal.

The warning came in a July letter Rogal sent to supporters.

“We need your help,” he urged unnamed recipients. “It is not economically prudent to spend millions in planning for new uses” at Copia if they are rejected, he wrote.

Rogal was referring to the Napa Planning Commission’s approval of an appeal against permitting new office space in the former Copia building, now referred to as 500 First St.

In late December, Rogal announced preliminary reuse plans for the long-shuttered building next to the Oxbow Public Market. Copia representatives had planned to carve out leasable space from a former gallery on the second floor as a first step for redeveloping the property.

When a group called Coalition to Preserve Copia protested, planning staff forwarded the matter to the city planning commission with the recommendation that the offices be allowed.

The coalition, led by Napa developers John Salmon and Harry Price, asked the city to halt modifications of the Copia building until there is a city-approved reuse master plan for the entire 12-acre site. The group claimed that the office use was not permitted under the property’s current zoning.

In May, the Planning Commission rejected the city staff’s recommendation and upheld the coalition’s appeal.

On June 13, the Copia Liquidating Trust (CLT), the bankrupt parcel’s controlling entity, filed its own appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision. “CLT strongly disagrees with...granting the coalition’s appeal,” it wrote.

That appeal was to be heard on Tuesday. At the Copia Liquidating Trust and ACA’s request, that meeting has been postponed until Nov. 5.

In Rogal’s July 16 letter, he asserts that if new tenants aren’t allowed at Copia, “the only financially responsible course of action is to mothball the property” and wait until sustainable uses are financially viable.

According to the letter, representatives from ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation, which insured the bonds that funded Copia, “have made clear they will pull back, stop spending (and) secure the property,” to revisit a reuse plan in the future. ACA would need to close down the building and close off the land “to reduce their operating costs and potential liability,” the letter states.

In the recent past, the building, including its theater, has been made available to a small number of meetings, events and other gatherings including the Napa Valley Film Festival and BottleRock.

Rogal’s letter also mentioned a possible first tenant for the former Copia building. Rogal would not name the tenant, only to say it was a local wealth management company.

That firm would occupy part of the former gallery on the second floor of the museum. New windows were to be installed on the First Street-facing side of the building, along with other commercial office improvements.

On Tuesday, Rogal said he will host one or more public meetings this summer to share specific information about the reuse plan.

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“What we want to do is give people an overview of our thinking,” with concrete details, he said. “Right now there is speculation,” Rogal said.

“In the absence of information people can think all kinds of things,” he said. “We thought it’s time to start making sure people have a complete picture of our plans.”

Dates for those meetings have not been announced, Rogal said.

When asked to comment on Rogal’s letter and plans, John Salmon of the Coalition to Preserve Copia said, “We hope that ACA will decide to file a master plan with the planning department.”

Rogal said that the master plan will be submitted to the city “very soon.”

An attorney for the Copia Liquidating Trust and a representative from ACA could not be immediately reached Tuesday afternoon.

ACA first announced that Rogal would head up redevelopment efforts at Copia in December 2011. On Tuesday, when asked when his contract with ACA would end, Rogal said “upon our success and accomplishing our goals.”

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