Apparently Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney and Napa’s former Food City center have something in common. All three were “born” in 1942.
The shared birthdate is noted on large signs newly installed at the former Food City shopping center, located at the corner of Jefferson Street and Old Sonoma Road. The original anchor tenant was the Food City market.
“Food City is being reborn,” reads a new Food City Napa website. “We’re getting back to our roots as a food-centric experience and neighborhood gem,” it reads. “Eat drink socialize. Are you in?”
In May, Brooks Street and partner Michael C. Holcomb bought the south Napa center for $6.8 million from OSR Inc.
“We thought it was a great opportunity,” Scott Goldie, partner at Brooks Street, said at the time. Brooks Street and Noble House Hotels & Resorts co-own the Napa Valley Wine Train.
“We want to be really thoughtful about what we do” at the center, said Holcomb. The developer has been involved in a number of other Napa projects including the Borreo building rebirth at Soscol Avenue/Third Street and retail redevelopment on Second Street.
For this project, “We’re working on a different direction for the center,” Holcomb said.
Visually, “It’s a little tired,” said Holcomb. “We want to bring vibrancy back to the property.”
The owners want to create a destination that serves the neighborhood. “We want this to be a local place that people are excited about being connected to,” said Holcomb.
That begins with paint and other aesthetics, the new website (foodcitynapa.com), new signage, leasing efforts and remodeling.
It also includes some demolition. During a tour on Wednesday, Holcomb showed how a former passageway, previously closed and turned into a storefront, will be reopened to allow access from the center of the mall to a rear alley space.
Holcomb described how he plans to “activate” the alley for shoppers and visitors. In addition, small storage units facing the alley could be turned into retail incubator spaces, he said.
With those initial improvements will come other changes.
None of the current tenants have a long-term lease, Holcomb noted. As those terms come to an end, “The rents will change,” Holcomb acknowledged.
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“We’re going to be looking for market rates,” said Holcomb. However, “The tenant and the vibe is more important to us than the rent structure,” he said. “We feel if we create a really good sense of place, all the tenants will be successful” and the shopping center will be busier, benefiting both tenant and landlord.
If current tenants “want to invest in their business” and remain in the center, he’s willing to discuss that, said Holcomb.
Tenants now include a nail salon, smoke shop, convenience store, Mexican restaurant and Family Drug.
Roxann Gracia, pharmacist at Family Drug, could not be reached this week, but Holcomb is particularly keen that Family Drug remains a tenant.
“They’ve been here from the start,” he said. “They’re very important to Napa and very important to us.”
“Change is not always easy but we do like the idea of having a pharmacy in the project,” perhaps in another location, he said.
The corner where Family Drug faces Old Sonoma Road and Jefferson Street “is where we really want to activate a food concept or a market,” with outdoor seating around the building, said Holcomb.
Rajinder Kaur, owner of A&B Market at the center, agreed that the plans for redevelopment will lead to a whole new look for the center.
“I’m not sure where they are putting us but we are staying” in the center, she said. Ideally, the market would remain on the end where it’s easy for delivery trucks to enter and exit, said Kaur. She declined to discuss when her lease expires.
“We are talking to the current operator right now to see what they could do” to transition to be more of a market than a convenience store, said Holcomb.
The original Food City tower was recently repainted and the Food City letters that once hung on the tower have been refinished. They will be reinstalled in the coming weeks.
“It was such a treasure” to find those letters lying flat on top of the tower roof, where they’d rested for many years.
“I cannot tell you how excited I am” to be reinstalling the signage, said Holcomb.