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Napa leaders will have a chance to ponder what makes the city’s Oxbow district special – and consider how to brand the riverside neighborhood to better publicize its unique qualities to visitors from near and far.

Tuesday afternoon, the City Council will review the findings of a study into branding the Oxbow, a once-sleepy area around the Napa River’s C-shaped bend that has become home to CIA at Copia food-wine-arts center, a downtown linear park, and various restaurants and hotels. City staff will then evaluate the report’s recommendations – which include more signage, easing river access and increasing the number and variety of events in the district – to decide which changes should take the highest priority, economic development manager Robin Schabes said in a memorandum released Thursday.

Compiled by a team of urban planners and first shared with the council last August, the report seeks to distill those qualities that have made the Oxbow into one of Napa’s newest destination areas – and suggests ways both to protect those qualities and make them more visible and easier to reach from downtown.

Recommendations by the panelists, volunteers with the Urban Land Institute of San Francisco, include:

- A focus on the Napa River as the Oxbow area’s heart, with better sightlines connections to the district

- A plan to nurture public life through event programming, walkable routes and well-designed open spaces

- Seating, shade structures and lighting to make the First Street bridge a more comfortable walk between downtown and the Oxbow

- Promoting the Oxbow Commons park with events, pedestrian signage and movable outdoor art

- A vision plan to guide development in the district, with a focus on mixed uses, active ground floors, and foot and bike connections

- Fostering activities by artists and craftspeople in the Oxbow

Panelists last year advised the City Council that a water-focused outlook for the Oxbow area can include zoning that creates easy access to the Napa River and prevents new construction from blocking views of the waterway. Planners also were advised to emphasize preserving views beyond the river and downtown, toward the east and west edges of the Napa Valley – a suggestion gaining added weight amid proposals for multistory hotels in the neighborhood.

The report’s authors also saw Oxbow’s architecture as a special asset: generally older and lower in height than latter-day downtown anchors like the Archer and Andaz hotels. City planning officials were encouraged to hold onto such buildings, partly as a haven for small businesses and start-ups.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.