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Copia Lots Purchased (copy)

A Napa developer plans to build housing on the south Copia parking lot and the adjoining south gardens.

A Napa developer’s initial plan to build 84 to 124 condo hotel units, town homes and single family homes at the former south parcel of the original Copia has been met with numerous objections by the city.

There’s not enough parking. The housing creates a “wall” facing First Street. The buildings are too high. Detached single family homes and condo hotel units aren’t appropriate for that part of First Street. The original Copia gardens should be preserved. The river connection is missing.

Overall, “your proposal is not consistent” with the Downtown Specific Plan and guidelines for the greater Oxbow district or the Copia area, wrote Erin Morris, Napa city planning manager.

The plan requires “significant changes in the design” if it is to proceed, Morris said.

The new property owner, Wayne O’Connell, said he’s not discouraged by the city’s feedback.

“We’ll listen to their input and respond in a thoughtful way and move forward from there,” he said.

Based on the city’s comments, “We hope to refine the project in a positive way,” said Preston O’Connell, partner and son of Wayne O’Connell.

Wayne O’Connell submitted a pre-application for the mixed use redevelopment project in October. The parcel is located directly across the street from the new CIA at Copia.

The city sent its comments to O’Connell on Dec. 4.

O’Connell completed his purchase of the property, at 585 and 601 First St., on Dec. 29.

He paid $6.5 million for the almost 5-acre lot, according to the transfer tax recorded. The seller was the Copia Liquidation Trust.

According to Morris’ report, the south Copia property is a “critical site” that should support the character of the Oxbow district.

“Appropriately-sized uses” and buildings should work in harmony with anchors in the area such as the CIA at Copia, Oxbow Public Market and Wine Train, she wrote.

Specifically, “detached single-family detached units are not allowed” in the Oxbow commercial district, said the report.

In addition, the city doesn’t recommend more hotels on First Street between the once-proposed Ritz Carlton at First and Silverado Trail property and the westerly edge of downtown.

“We’ll be discussing that” with the city, answered Wayne O’Connell.

Some of the buildings O’Connell proposed featured the backs of garages facing First Street at ground level. This does not foster “a pedestrian environment” along First Street, said the city report.

The design of the project should not create “an impenetrable or imposing ‘street wall’ along First Street,” wrote Morris.

The plan creates a “dead area” along its First Street frontage,” the report read. “This will not encourage people to walk east.”

A better design would offer small retail and other services fronting First Street, the report read.

“We will respond to that,” said O’Connell.

Another problem? The project’s connection to the river, a key element in any redevelopment plan in the area, “is not well-conceived,” wrote Morris. The plan doesn’t encourage people on First Street to access the river.

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The project should provide publicly accessible open space near the Napa River and design a way to provide “direct, apparent” pedestrian and bicycle access, said the report.

The open space areas shown on O’Connell’s pre-application “are not situated or designed to provide publicly accessible open space.”

“We will find out more” about what the city has in mind for that part of the property, O’Connell said. “We do want it to be welcoming.”

In addition, the report also noted that the amount of parking proposed “would fall far short” of the spaces required for the number of rooms plus additional spaces for employees.

“We believe we are providing more than the required amount of parking,” said O’Connell, who intends further clarification.

According to city staff comments, the three- and four-story buildings proposed in the project exceed the typical height of the predominantly one- to two-story buildings in the Oxbow District.

“Fundamentally, I disagree,” with that assessment, said O’Connell. The only way Napa will meet housing needs is to “go up” and build taller buildings or expand the Ag Preserve, he said. “I’m in favor of going up.”

Elements of the garden area south of Copia should be preserved, said the report.

The city recommended outreach to the CIA at Copia to assess its interest in potentially retaining this garden “and careful consideration of this issue” in the next project proposal.

“We will seek to do that,” said O’Connell.

The developer said his next step would be to create a revised pre-application for the project. A date to submit that revised pre-application has yet to be announced.

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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.