Napa’s Oxbow district, currently anchored by Oxbow Public Market, became ground zero for further development and tourism in 2016.
The defunct Copia property sprang back to life, developers began floating commercial plans for the south side of First Street and community festivals shifted to Oxbow Commons.
After buying the former Copia property from ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. in 2015 for $12.5 million, the Culinary Institute of America got to work this year transforming the defunct food-and-wine center into a satellite of the cooking academy’s Greystone campus in St. Helena.
The renowned cooking academy outlined plans to reshape the dormant center with demonstration kitchens, a Vintner’s Hall of Fame, a museum of cookware and tableware, and a new restaurant where Julia’s Kitchen once operated.
The revived building, called the CIA at Copia, is becoming a venue for cooking demonstrations and food and wine events led by a rotation of guest chefs.
The school also has shared plans to host weddings and business events and operate a shop with cooking equipment, books and specialty foods.
The culinary academy’s mission for the building partly overlaps the goals promoted by the creators of Copia, which opened in 2001 with great publicity as a showcase for Napa Valley wine, cuisine and fine arts but closed seven years later under a $78 million debt burden.
Also in 2016, Napa County sold a property along the Napa River in the Oxbow district to Barry McComic, a San Diego-based developer already involved with such local projects as redeveloping the former Napa Valley Register site on Second Street.
The county Board of Supervisors voted in October to sell the 2.2-acre corporation yard site at 933 Water St. to a McComic venture called RBMC Advisors, LLC for $4.4 million.
But the planned project goes beyond the Water Street site. McComic and his partners also have an agreement to purchase the adjacent south Copia property from ACA Financial Guaranty Corp., creating a 7-acre development area.
Townhouses, stacked flats, commercial space on the scale of the nearby Oxbow Public Market and a parking structure are targeted for the sites.
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So is a landscaped Napa River promenade with park benches, sculptures and vintage streetlights, according to bid papers filed with the county.
In September, a Napa developer submitted a pre-application with the city to create a 134,000-square foot, mixed-use development along First Street, diagonal from the popular Oxbow Public Market.
Named Foxbow, the project would include two four-story buildings with below-grade parking, a pedestrian bridge crossing over the Wine Train tracks, 10,000 square feet of retail, a 74-key boutique hotel, six residential condominium units and 116 parking spaces.
According to the applicant, Napa Realtor and developer J.B. Leamer, the goal is “to create a project significant enough to act as the gateway to the Oxbow District and the core of Napa,” It would include a pedestrian sky bridge, pool and roof deck.
The year also saw more and more celebrations in the heart of Napa shifting toward the Oxbow District so they no longer shut off the streets in downtown.
The city’s movement to relocate festivals away from First and Main streets – and keep those routes flowing with the arrival of a major hotel and revived shopping center – is well underway, with the Napa Bike Fest, Earth Day celebration and July Fourth festivities shifting to the year-old Oxbow Commons park.
In October, Napa’s Halloween weekend festival also arrived at the Commons, with its soapbox-derby-style Coffin Races moving off First Street to McKinstry Street.
The migration plays to a key purpose of the Commons, a quarter-mile-long and 300-foot-wide greenbelt completed in 2015 as a flood relief channel for high wintertime water levels in the Napa River.
Shortly after the opening of the bypass, city parks officials began recommending it as a venue for large-scale gatherings during the dry months, when it serves as a linear park with landscaping, seating and walking trails.
A report from the Parks and Recreation Department recommended shifting as many as 13 of the 26 annual downtown events off streets and onto the Commons, cutting down on disruptions to traffic and store owners in an area gaining in tourists, shops and traffic.