A total of 7 acres of prime downtown land ripe for redevelopment is for sale if a buyer can manage to seal two deals at one time.
The south lot of the Copia property at 500 First St. has been listed for sale by property owner ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. for an unknown price.
Immediately adjacent to it, the county has listed a surplus corporation yard at 933 Water St. for sale for between $4.3 million and $5.7 million.
If there is a buyer for the south Copia lot, then adding the Water Street piece to it “gives them more flexibility and acreage to work with,” said Bill Kampton of Colliers International, who is the listing agent for the Water Street property.
“As everyone can see, when you go around Napa now, real estate opportunities are getting harder and harder,” Kampton said.
The Water Street property presents a unique opportunity, Kampton said. “It has a great location — right by the former Copia and Oxbow where everything is happening right now,” he said. In addition, “it has a ton of river frontage.”
In a similar vein, the marketing brochure for the south Copia property says that parcel is “superbly located to capitalize on the ongoing transformation of the city of Napa (and) Napa Valley wine country, a region known for its high barriers to entry.” The site is currently used primarily for parking.
Larry Florin, Napa County director of housing and intergovernmental affairs, said the two parcels could be used “to create something that is unique for that part of town.”
The biggest benefit of the Water Street lot is “location, location, location,” said Florin. It’s a prime piece of downtown real estate, he said.
“It’s centrally located and it’s across from the Oxbow. As the CIA’s Copia comes back to life, it will be right in the middle of so much going on. Plus it has some really good views and access.”
He’s optimistic the two parcels could be bought by the same buyer. “We think it has value by being linked together.”
There is another possibility. The Water Street property could become part of the Oxbow Public Market, said Steve Carlin, Oxbow CEO.
“We’ve expressed that interest to the county and the city already,” he said. “We’re considering it as a possible way of expanding” the market concept, possibly for parking.
“As more successful businesses come into downtown and the Oxbow, there’s going to be a need for parking. We just have to wait and see whoever purchases the south lot what their plans are.”
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Carlin said he’s not currently interested in buying the south Copia lot. “While we have considered it, we’re not actively engaged in discussion with ACA on it,” he said.
Carlin said the two parcels are just another piece in downtown’s redevelopment puzzle. Other key components include the former Town Center on First Street, a possible new hotel at the Silverado Trail site where a Ritz Carlton had been planned and the Culinary Institute of America’s plans for the former Copia building and north Copia parking lot.
“We’re all trying to do the same thing — make Napa a place everyone wants to visit and support,” he said.
City Redevelopment Director Rick Tooker said a number of interested parties have contacted the city about the Water Street and south Copia parcels.
Ideas mentioned have been broad, including a mix of residential and nonresidential, hotel and retail, he said.
“Of course you want these larger sites to develop,” said Tooker. “You want to fill in gaps.” The CIA and Oxbow Public Market “will only succeed that much more with the development of the south side of Copia” and the Water Street lot, he said.
However, “we don’t know if there’s a buyer and if there is, we don’t know what their plan is. We’ll have to see.”
Like the Riverfront redevelopment on Main Street, south of Third Street, such a larger site provides unique opportunities.
“Riverfront did it successfully, but we haven’t had a lot of opportunities since then to do something that big on large parcel,” said Tooker.
The real estate broker for the south Copia lot and a spokesperson for ACA declined to be interviewed for this story.
Copia first opened in 2001 with philanthropic contributions to the project totaling 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 Corp.
In 2008, these bonds went into default when Copia filed for bankruptcy. In 2010, Copia Liquidation Trust, an entity controlled by ACA, took title to the property on behalf of the bondholders. The trust was charged with maximizing sales proceeds.
In 2015 the Culinary Institute of America purchased the north section of the campus at 500 First St., with plans to offer a broad array of food experience. Events are scheduled to begin this year.