Napa County’s visitor center left the old Napa Town Center nine years ago for the new Riverfront complex on Main Street.
Now, it’s going back.
Visit Napa Valley’s Welcome Center announced plans to relocate to the former Napa Town Center mall, which has since been rebranded and renamed as First Street Napa.
“We’re excited to have the Napa Valley Welcome Center be an integral part of First Street Napa – making this valuable resource more accessible for both visitors and residents,” said Linsey Gallagher, president and CEO, Visit Napa Valley.
“We gave this a lot of thought and we are confident this is the right move, to the right location, at the right time, and it will pay off by getting more people to explore all regions of the Napa Valley.”
The Welcome Center will open in First Street Napa in the fall, according to a news release.
Building is underway on the new 2,550-square-foot visitor center that will be located adjacent to Makers Market and across from the Mayacamas Downtown tasting room. Some local residents may remember the space as a former location of the Mustard Seed clothing store.
As Visit Napa Valley has evolved, so has the city of Napa and the travelers who visit the region, said a statement from the organization.
“The downtown Napa core for visitation is shifting from the Napa Riverfront to the First Street corridor, which now generates more than double the foot traffic of our current location,” the statement read.
At the same time, the Welcome Center’s Riverfront lease expires in September, “which prompted the need to evaluate visitation trends and identify available relocation options,” the release stated.
“The opportunity to engage and communicate directly with more visitors was the ultimate factor for our Visit Napa Valley board in making the decision to relocate,” said Gallagher.
Todd Zapolski, principal and managing member of First Street Napa, said that with the addition of the Napa Valley Welcome Center, First Street Napa “will become an even more natural starting place to explore all the region has to offer. We look forward to working with them to warmly welcome visitors.”
On Monday, Mike DeSimoni Sr., developer of the Riverfront, said he was surprised to hear that the Welcome Center plans to move.
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“It’s a shame,” he said.
Tenants come and go, but “I wish I would have known how we could keep them there.” Was it the rent? A parking issue?, he wondered.
DeSimoni Sr. acknowledged that more visitors may be heading to First Street rather than the Riverfront on Main Street. “I’m aware it’s not the center of the city,” he said.
He wants the city of Napa as a whole to prosper and benefit from tourism. “It’s better if we can keep them from going up valley” and not skipping Napa itself, he said.
DeSimoni Sr. said he’s still seeking tenants for empty spaces at the Riverfront.
“We’re working like hell on it,” he said. You never know which tenant could be the next hit, he said.
With the Welcome Center’s move will come improvements to the center’s offerings “designed to inform and motivate visitors to explore all parts of Napa Valley,” the release stated.
“New experiential, education and technology-driven offerings are intended,” it noted.
For example, during Cabernet season, November through April, wine tastings are offered Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All are welcome, said the statement.
Since opening at the Napa Riverfront in 2011, the Napa Valley Welcome Center, which is managed by Visit Napa Valley, has welcomed more than 1 million visitors, said the release.
More than 80 volunteers and five staff members collectively speak more than 10 languages and provide local expertise, as well as complimentary concierge services, maps, magazines, and other materials. The Mercantile retail shop features locally crafted gift items as well home décor.
The Napa Valley Welcome Center, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., also offers a public restroom and is pet friendly, the release stated.