One plan would convert downtown Napa’s earthquake-wounded post office building into the city’s newest hotel. Another plan would lay the groundwork for housing, shops and parking near the spot where a downtown movie theater once stood.
Two projects with the potential to reshape the city’s core will come before the Napa City Council on Tuesday. Councilmembers will have the final say on the developer James Keller’s bid to convert the historic Franklin Station Post Office, closed since the 2014 earthquake, into a multistory hotel with 163 rooms and suites. Also awaiting a council vote is a master plan to redevelop the north end of downtown Napa, a neighborhood that was anchored by the Cinedome until the six-screen cinema was torn down in 2015.
Keller’s project, which won support from the city Planning Commission and Cultural Heritage Commission last month, would mark a second act for the former Second Street post office, an Art Deco edifice opened in 1935 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After the South Napa quake heavily damaged the building, the U.S. Postal Service weighed tearing it down before selling the site to Keller in 2017.
Plans filed with the city call for preserving about 20 percent of the historic structure, including the north-facing facade, steps and tall front windows, to about the 15-foot depth of the original post office lobby. The structure would be expanded back and upward near the 60-foot height limit allowed by city zoning code, for a total of roughly 175,000 square feet.
The hotel also would incorporate the footprint of Zeller’s Ace Hardware behind the Franklin Station building, on Randolph Street. Dick Clark, owner of Zeller’s, has agreed to sell the property and work with Keller to find a new location for the hardware store.
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Keller’s project also includes the purchase of a city-owned surface parking lot east of the former post office. The 55-space lot would be replaced by an automated garage holding about 228 vehicles, with 65 spaces reserved for the public. The parking structure also is to include 7,000 square feet of retail space.
Also on Tuesday, the council will review a master plan to reshape 5.4 acres off Main and Pearl Streets near the former Cinedome block.
Endorsed by the Planning Commission in September, the guidebook envisions placing townhouses on land owned by the Napa Sanitation District north of Pearl Street, in an effort to bring downtown dwellings into a housing market plagued by high rents, climbing sale prices and historically low vacancies in recent years.
SyWest Development, the San Rafael firm that still owns the old Cinedome block, would create a mixed housing and retail development to replace a temporary parking lot currently occupying the theater site. Also included in the plan is a multistory parking garage for more than 300 vehicles, which is expected to cost at least $12 million.
A complete build-out of the master plan would require funding for extended flood controls along the Napa River, which are needed to allow construction on the eastern perimeter of the project area closest to Soscol.