First Street Napa also contains the revamped upper level offices, which were formerly the upper level of McCaulou’s department store. The August 2014 earthquake damaged the water lines and flooded the interior. This led to the closure of the store and a remodel of the space for offices.
Zapolski, who is a resident of Napa Valley, has taken years to consider what developments like First Street Napa could do for the city. Zapolski first visited the Valley in 1999. He decided to relocate there a few years later. “I saw the opportunity for Napa proper to join the rest of Napa Valley as a cool and eclectic spot. The brand of Napa was getting stronger. Seeing that, we had a particularly unwashed stone that could be brought up to be a jewel. We had to be diligent in assembling the amount of property that we have to create a ‘there’ there,” says Zapolski.
The City of Napa is upbeat about the tax revenue and new shopping opportunities downtown for residents and visitors. “From an economic development standpoint, we’re very excited about First Street Napa. It’s created an upgraded retail center in the heart of our downtown,” says Robin Schabes, economic development manager for the city.
Schabes says First Street Napa has created a “pleasant space that is nicely designed, with common area improvements such as public spaces where downtown workers can eat lunch outside.” The project has also generated new public art installations. In addition, it supports funding for downtown beautification efforts such as hanging flower baskets.
Rick Tooker, community development director for the city, says First Street Napa fills a “doughnut hole” in the center of town.
“Over the years, the downtown has grown in a very unusual way. We have thriving businesses at Oxbow Market and CIA at Copia to the east, West End to the west, and the Napa River Inn with Riverfront to the south. The north end is also expanding. However, First Street Napa fills in the missing piece with active uses,” says Tooker.
According to Schabes, the development has brought new office space to the downtown area. Several of First Street Napa’s anchor tenants, Archer Hotel Napa, Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, and Eiko’s Modern Japanese Cuisine, encourage shopping and dining at night. “Residents want to go to places that meet their needs. This is a center that is still in the process of ramping up. It’s already providing a more vibrant atmosphere in the downtown area,” says Schabes.
Jaina French, community relations manager for the city, says the taxes that the businesses in First Street Napa generate go “straight to the city’s general fund for streets, sidewalks and parks.” The money from the Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) on rooms in Archer Hotel Napa represents an additional and welcome stream of funds for the city.
Craig Smith, executive director of the Downtown Napa Association, says the new businesses are automatically a part of the association. The association is happy that the economic activity is coming “in waves.” “It’s not just one big impact. This way, there’s a spotlight on businesses as they open. As more open their doors, the center will gain more momentum with locals,” says Smith.
New stores set goals
Makers Market, a shop that carries locally made and American made artisanal goods, opened in First Street Napa in mid-October 2018. Suzy Ekman, a Bay Area local and the chief executive officer of Makers Market, says the company chose to open a location in the development after Zapolski reached out in spring 2018.
“First Street Napa had an aesthetic that aligned with our own. We saw the quality of the Archer Hotel Napa. That combined with the vision of the development as high quality and locally focused, made it a good fit for us,” says Ekman.
Ekman says everything Makers Market sells is American handcrafted. “We carry jewelry, men’s and women’s accessories, home goods, organic body products, wine-related products, and locally produced food. A few local vendors we feature include Napa Valley Candle Company, K&M Chocolate, and Clif Family Winery’s foods, including olive oil, vinegar, and chocolate-covered nuts,” says Ekman.
Lisa Gordon, Napa store manager for Makers Market, says the company is promoting the store through social media and advertising in local newspapers.
“There hasn’t been a store like this in downtown Napa that showcases the maker movement. We are going to have ‘Meet the Maker’ nights where the makers come to talk about their products, with sips and nibbles. Also, every third Saturday, we have a maker fair between the Archer Hotel Napa and our storefront. It’s very family friendly with local artists and live music. We plan to partner with Compline and Archer Hotel Napa on wine and food discounts,” says Gordon.
Mayacamas Vineyards also opened this fall in First Street Napa. The tasting room allows visitors to sample current releases of Mayacamas Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot, as well as a rotating selection from the Mayacamas wine library. The winery lost its original tasting room in the 2017 Nuns Fire.
Brian Baker, general manager at Mayacamas Vineyards, says the winery chose the new space because it was “more than a traditional tasting room. We think of this concept as a tasting salon that will make our mountaintop winery more accessible to Napa Valley. First Street Napa is the perfect place for the concept and the larger community,” he adds.
The Mayacamas tasting room contains a wine boutique, sidewalk patio, and private tasting space. It offers light menu items and luxury retail items for sale. “The design, offering, and general concept just fit the downtown community. (All of these) would function differently on top of the mountain,” says Baker.
Lululemon, which opened in the development in September, is becoming a hub for Napa’s athletic community.
The company wants to “(bring) together locals to sweat, connect, and discover. The Napa community has many sweaty pursuits, running, cycling and yoga. We’re excited to build new relationships and be a resource in the community,” says a lululemon representative.
Fitness-related businesses like spas and yoga studios in Napa have reached out to the store to support its opening. The company is proud of the décor of the store, which features soft colors and rolling hills.
“From a Zen lounge area to transforming into an event space, the First Street Napa (store) is entirely dedicated to celebrating the Napa community,” says a lululemon representative.
Anchor businesses applaud the expansion
The Archer Hotel Napa, a 183-room boutique hotel, is becoming more of an attraction as stores open around it. “Every new retail store is a huge benefit for our guests,” says Michael Collins, general manager of Archer Hotel Napa.
Collins says the hotel’s business has been steady despite opening in late November 2017. “The building was 90 percent complete,” he says. “We quickly understood the magnitude of the fire. (We) made the conscious decision to stop any internal training that was taking place and the contractor pulled anyone off the job they had in the building. Napa did a great job of reminding people the city was still open at that time. Very few wineries were touched by the fires. We didn’t have any business cancellations. Since then, occupancy levels have been extremely strong. All of the expectations we had foreseen for this property have been fulfilled.”
The hotel has many corporate guests on business between Sunday and Thursday. It hosts primarily travelers taking leisure trips on Friday and Saturday.
“The Bay Area is always our strongest market,” says Collins. “The majority of people who stay here live within 100 miles of the Napa Valley. Yet, we have a fair amount of international visitors, coming from a variety of countries, including France, Japan, Australia, and different countries in South America.”
Archer Hotel Napa does much of its advertising through word of mouth. “We don’t do a ton of online marketing,” says Collins. “We do have Facebook retargeting ads. We also place ads in Napa and Sonoma magazines, those that target travelers who visit the Wine Country.”
Charlie Palmer Steak, Michelin-starred Chef Charlie Palmer’s modern American steakhouse located at Archer Hotel Napa, manages all food and beverage offerings within the hotel, including room service and catering. Charlie Palmer Steak also manages the Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar at the hotel. The restaurant is seeing benefits from more stores in the development opening. “The retail filling in has given all of downtown Napa a great vibe. Given Napa’s walkability, the food and beverage scene will now only get better,” says Peter Triolo, director of food and beverage at Charlie Palmer Steak.
Triolo says Charlie Palmer Steak Napa opened in November 2017 with the hotel. The group opened Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar in April 2018. Both venues have had an “amazing almost first year.”
“We do a great job of catering to the local clientele. We have a 4-to-7 p.m. happy hour every day. Our pastrami short rib is a must. It pairs well with our Charlie Palmer old-fashioned or our barrel-aged Manhattan with cocoa nibs,” says Triolo. The restaurant carries a wine list that’s “65 percent Napa and Sonoma wines,” with some imported wines from Spain and France and non-local unique wines.
“During restaurant week (held the last week of January), we featured specific wines and pairings in the lobby. We change the wine list up seasonally. Sometimes we will offer a specific wine by the glass through a season. We change the wine list often enough to keep it fresh for locals,” says Triolo. He says Charlie Palmer Steak supports local farmers and ranchers by purchasing ingredients from Napa and Sonoma businesses, such as local stone fruit, lettuces from County Line Harvest, and meat from Five Dot Ranch. “We also purchase locally brewed beers and spirits from Napa Smith Brewery and Napa Valley Distillery,” says Triolo.
Triolo says the restaurant is getting ready for the holiday season.
“We also unveiled Cut of the Week, a secret three-course prix fixe menu. You can only get it if you come in and ask for it,” says Triolo.
Steve Carlin, real estate developer of Oxbow Public Market, says he is excited about First Street Napa’s progress. “Oxbow Public Market is primarily focused on food and beverage,” says Carlin. “First Street Napa covers more of a broad spectrum, retail, office, restaurants, and the hotel. There’s not much of an overlap. I see First Street Napa as the anchor of downtown Napa. It’s been a really great addition to the overall area. Oxbow is an independent district. The two developments work synergistically together.”
First Street Napa is making the downtown area more exciting, says Carlin. “We’re delighted that they’re doing well. We love seeing these new tenants. The city needs more retail—we don’t want people shopping out of town when they can shop here. What First Street Napa is doing takes work. You can have a vision but it takes time to build (consumer) confidence.”
Changes in parking and traffic
At a later date, the opening of new businesses in First Street Napa may require the city to consider adding parking. “We’re thinking about what kind of impact First Street Napa will have on downtown,” says Smith. “For example, more openings may result in some reshuffling of parking. There’s more nightlife now. We need to make sure that the impacts of growth are planned for with everyone [in the Napa Downtown Association and the city] at the table.”
The Archer Hotel Napa will not be affected. It has a long-term lease with the city. “We’ve secured all the necessary parking spaces. We’re covered for 30 years,” says Collins.
According to Tooker, the city does not now have a parking shortfall.
“We are working to maintain sufficient parking with new development,” says Tooker. “We’re ensuring this by centralizing our parking program. The city is also setting aside funds for new structure parking.”
The city is currently studying parking demand in the central business district. The City Council will review a report on downtown parking before the end of 2018.
The city is monitoring the parking situation to include installing signage on the parking structures to show their level of availability, working with web-based apps so drivers can check for available parking, and looking at alternative ways to direct traffic to downtown parking locations.
The city is adjusting well to First Street having two-way traffic. The change came in 2014.
“It’s always beneficial for retail to allow traffic in both directions. Since the change, First Street has become more walkable and pedestrian-friendly,” says Schabes.
A development for the community
As First Street Napa grows, it’s seeking to become a retail destination that serves locals and visitors. Zapolski says the project intentionally limited the number of tasting rooms and high-end restaurants. One of the reasons First Street Napa reached out to stores like LUSH, a cosmetics and beauty shop, Maker’s Market, and Kalifornia Jean Bar, which offers denim clothing and accessories, was to welcome stores with a price point where “there’s something for everyone.”
Other businesses in First Street Napa include Mecox, which offers high-end home and garden goods and opened in spring 2018, Overland Sheepskin Co., which sells sheepskin and leather clothing and accessories and opened in early 2018, adding a second Napa Valley location as they recognized a growing need in downtown Napa, Pacific Union International, a realtor, now located in the new upper level office suites formerly McCaulou's Department Store, and State & First by Maris Collective, which sells a highly curated selection of clothing, accessories and home goods.
Inviting businesses to First Street Napa and overcoming obstacles has required “levels of patience,” says Zapolski.
“You’ve got to slowly curate it [the development], take things one at a time, and bring them [the businesses] in. In the meantime, you’re fighting the normal issues of economic cycles, earthquakes, flood and fires,” says Zapolski.
Zapolski says he hopes to “add value to the community for the people who live here.”
“It’s easy to say that everything has been well received,” says Zapolski. “Yet, we still are working to bring in businesses. We want a real cross-section. Our goal is to have enough diversity in retail and dining choices for everyone to enjoy coming to First Street Napa and downtown.”
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Located at 1410 Neotomas Ave. in Santa Rosa,NorthBay biz magazine is a monthly business-to-business publication covering Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties. This year, the magazine is celebrating 43 years of continuous operation. It originally hit the stands in 1975, when it was called Sonoma Business, and only covered Sonoma County. Norm and Joni Rosinski and John Dennis, acquired it in 2000 and changed its name to cover an expanded market. Today, the magazine is part of Amaturo Sonoma Media Group. More here..