It’s a new day for Copia. More than six years after the cultural center abruptly closed and filed for bankruptcy, the former Copia building and property at 500 First St. finally has a new owner.

The Copia Liquidation Trust will sell the building and grounds to Triad Development of Seattle.

While the purchase hasn’t closed yet, Curt Johansen, development director for Triad in California, said “Triad is honored to be chosen to redevelop the former Copia property into a delightful mixed-use destination compatible with the Oxbow Market and other local businesses.”

“Our business model and design for the property will respect and complement downtown Napa and the surrounding neighborhoods,” Johansen said.

Speaking broadly, Johansen said the future could include a new tenant in the Copia building, parking, a small amount of retail and a variety of high- quality, green homes. Affordable housing may be part of the mix, he said.

The redevelopment is likely to cost $100 million to $150 million and take from three to five years, he said.

The news release said Triad is in negotiations “to bring a world-class entity in to enhance the prestige of both downtown Napa and the Oxbow District,” however it has yet to commit to a use for the 78,000-square-foot Copia building.

“We are actively negotiating with a user that we think will make a wonderful occupant … but we do not have an agreement in place for a user for that building,” he said.

Johansen declined to comment on whether the tenant could be the Culinary Institute of America. “I know there are rumors but I cannot talk about that at this point,” he said.

Triad was selected by ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation, which insures the bonds that funded Copia.

Triad was chosen from several competing proposals because of “its vision for respecting the culinary legacy of Copia while offering the city of Napa a destination project on the Oxbow site that delivers economic development, environmental sustainability, and social benefits to the city,” said a joint release by ACA and Triad.

“We took great care to invite and critique proposals from highly qualified developers,” said ACA’s Maria Cheng.

“Our positive relationship with the city of Napa and respect for the Copia ideal were definitely factors in our evaluation process and ultimately our selection of a great project with real vision,” said Cheng.

Triad Development has been developing mixed-use communities for more than 30 years, many in the Pacific Northwest but also in California and other parts of the U.S., said the news release.

Triad is perhaps best known locally for Pacific Union College’s controversial Eco-Village project in Angwin.

When the college and Triad officials first announced the project in 2006, their plans included 591 housing units, as well as upgrades to the campus and to the small commercial area by the college.

After Angwin residents and others raised concerns about the size of the project and potential traffic, and after it became the center of attention during the county’s general plan update, the number of homes was reduced to 380. But that project fell through with the economic crash that began in 2007 and 2008. The proposal was scrapped in 2010.

“Triad was trying to do a very high-quality project and something that was beneficial for the community,” Johansen said. “I’m very proud of the work we did there and disappointed it never came together.”

Triad has wanted to deliver a sustainable mixed-use community to the city of Napa since it first became interested in Copia back in 2007, said Johansen. “We never lost interest in the property.”

“We intend to gain an excellent appreciation of the many project-related issues that will be of interest to Napans, including environmental and social impacts which must be addressed.” Community input and feedback will be actively solicited, he said.

Triad expects to complete its acquisition with the Liquidation Trust this year and to begin a public outreach process to listen to residents’ desires and input as soon as possible, said the release.

“A team of experts will be assembled to address design, parking, and traffic mitigation issues associated with the property and to work cooperatively with city leaders on a public workshop process to present project concepts and to solicit community input,” said the release.

Cheng and Johansen both declined to say how much the property sold for.

According to bankruptcy court documents, in late 2008 Copia estimated the value of the property at $30 million. In March 2009, the property was appraised at $24.8 million

Jim Cantrell, who administers the Copia liquidation trust, could not be reached for comment.

When it opened in 2001, philanthropic contributions to Copia totaled about $50 million. In addition to the contributions of the Robert Mondavi family and others, Copia borrowed about $78 million, financed by bonds issued through the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank and backed by the guaranty of ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation.

In 2008, these bonds went into default when Copia filed for bankruptcy. In 2010, Copia Liquidation Trust (CLT), an entity controlled by ACA, took title to the property on behalf of the bondholders. The trust was charged with maximizing sales proceeds.

ACA and the trust first attempted to sell the Copia complex in 2010, without success.

After that, New-York-based ACA ran into roadblocks in trying to redevelop the site and lease space to short-term renters, with critics objecting to changes that would diminish Copia’s potential to become a center for cultural or community events again.

Rather than try to come up with a redevelopment plan on its own, ACA Financial Guaranty now hopes to unload the property to someone with enough cash and who is willing to go through the city’s approval process to create a plan for the entire site.

Johansen said that assuming the sale goes through, a plan would be part of Triad’s process.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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