Napa’s Borreo Building may soon bear the name and symbol of the craft brewery that has brought life back to the 19th-century downtown landmark.
Stone Brewing, the San Diego-area beer maker that last year opened a brewery and restaurant inside the long-dormant structure at Soscol Avenue and Third Street, is preparing signage to adorn the stone walls that date to 1877. The labeling would take the form of laser-cut black steel forming the beer maker’s name on two sides of the Borreo – as well as Stone’s distinctive, twin-horned gargoyle mascot facing the Napa River and downtown district.
On Thursday, the Planning Commission received an up-close look at the labeling designed for the Borreo’s west and south walls. But uncertainty over the proper size of such signage on one of Napa’s oldest buildings led the city’s land-use authority to push its decision back to March 21.
The opening of the Stone gastropub in May 2018 brought back to the public eye an Italian Renaissance-style landmark that housed a feed store, shirt factory, winery and Oldsmobile dealership over the generations, but had been vacant since 2001. However, the stonework has remained unlabeled through the first nine months of its latest beer-and-food iteration.
Escondido-based Stone Brewing filed plans to install the company name on the sides facing west toward downtown and south toward Third Street, near the east pier of the Napa River bridge. The larger letters spelling out “STONE” would be 42 inches high on the south wall, and 36 inches high on the west wall’s north end.
At the west wall’s south end would be installed Stone’s symbol, a horned face with pointed ears that in the company’s original application would be about 10 feet in diameter.
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The signage would be equipped – with the possible exception of the gargoyle – with light-emitting diode (LED) backlighting to create a halo-like nighttime effect, according to architect Sarah Marshall of Napa Design Partners. “We opted for something that would be simple and conducive to letting the building still be a beautiful stone building,” she told commissioners, pointing to the gargoyle logo’s skeletal construction that would allow the stone construction to show through.
However, the size of labeling on the side most visible from central Napa drew caution from city planning staff, who called for downsizing the signage to comply with the sign-coverage limits that were in effect when Stone gained its permits. (In December, the City Council passed a new sign code that dropped the old limit of 10 percent coverage of a façade.) A staff report filed last week recommended allowing the brewpub only a 4-foot-wide logo and a letter height of 24 inches, the maximum allowed by the city’s old law.
Such standards, however, seemed inflexible to commissioners who pointed at the distance from the Borreo to passers-by on the opposite bank of the river. “If I can’t even read the letters, then why put it out there?” said Paul Kelley after seeing drawings of how the smaller labeling would appear on the west wall.
“You have to look at the distance, at the viewpoint,” added Michael Murray. “Make it too small and they don’t exist, because you can’t see them.”
Commissioners edged toward compromising on the size of the water-facing displays, pondering an 8-foot-wide logo and 30-inch characters, but ultimately postponed their vote a month to allow Stone to prepare new renderings.