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Soscol Square Shopping Center project to be reconsidered following drive-thru denial

Soscol Square Lot

The lot for the proposed Soscol Square Shopping Center project, at the intersection of Soscol Avenue And Gasser Drive in Napa.

The Soscol Square Shopping Center project is now being reconsidered following the Napa City Council denial of its proposed restaurant drive-thru last week.

The 7-acre project, which would be located at the intersection of Soscol Avenue and Gasser Drive, was planned to include a 55,000-square-foot Kohl’s department store, a 9,800-square-foot retail building and the 4,970-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru.

But the city council upheld an appeal of the drive-thru from Napa Climate NOW! because of the impact it would have had on greenhouse gas emissions created by idling vehicles.

The developer will now need to remove the drive-thru from the project proposal at the very least, according to Michael Allen, the city’s acting planning manager.

Allen said in an email the project could still technically move forward through the city’s process just by removing the drive-thru, because it was approved by the city’s planning commission in August. But the project may need to head back to the city’s planning commission or it could be approved at the staff level depending on what the developer proposes, he added. The proposal may change significantly because the now-denied drive-thru was of great financial importance to the project, said developer Doug Porozni, chairman of Ronmor Real Estate at the city council meeting last week. 

Part of what makes the drive-thru financially important is the proposed restaurant is on a pad lease, Porozni said at the meeting. That means the tenant — formerly a Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers restaurant — was going to build the building at an estimated cost of $500 to $600 per square foot along with leasing the pad, had the drive-thru been approved. 

The restaurant building was originally planned as a Chick-fil-A, but the developer dropped the Chick-fil-A from the project in July. Ronmor then brought in the Raising Cane’s, but since the drive-thru element of the restaurant was denied, the Raising Cane’s will not be coming to Napa.

The Kohl’s building is also on a pad lease, Poronzi added, but the returns are far less for that business than the drive-thru restaurant.

“We initially had another grocery tenant lined up for this location. They wanted us to build a building; we couldn’t afford to build it and provide all the site work and all the other things that we have to do,” Porozni said at the meeting. “So when we did the Kohl’s deal, it had to be a pad lease.”

The Soscol Square Kohl’s is intended to replace the downtown Napa Kohl’s, an area included in plans for a large private development, which would include 120 apartments for rent, a 210-room hotel, and 35,000 square feet of commercial space. Zapolski Real Estate, developer of the downtown project, didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

The Soscol Square drive-thru was also in great demand among potential restaurant tenants, Porozni said — of 100 applicants for the location, 90% asked for a drive-thru.

“Without [the drive-thru], we don’t have a restaurant tenant,” Porozni said at the meeting. “And I’m afraid that’s just the bottom line.”

Porozni said in an email that Ronmor is currently still considering its options after the city council decision last week.

“Well, we have to rethink the project,” Porozni said at the meeting. “That is our most valuable corner, the site at Gasser and Soscol. And it’s generated the best return to support the Kohl’s development, which is not as profitable or, if you want to say, as investment-worthy as the drive-thru is.”

Allen also said no other project applications in the city’s system propose a drive-thru. But the city has received a pre-application for a car wash — which isn’t a formal request for approval — and the city is reviewing potential issues with the drive-thru component of that project.

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You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.

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Letters: I urge the Napa City Council to do some research, find some balance and not cave to dire predictions.

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