Barbara Crowley, of Napa, took a break to rest her weary feet, sitting on a bench just a few doors down from Buckhorn Grill at Napa Town Center, the downtown pedestrian mall behind First Street.
“This place is sort of creepy. It’s like a ghost town. I believe there are more vacant stores than occupied, and no bustle of crowds,” Crowley said.
“I’ve lived in Napa for most of my life. I remember when the Town Center was a thriving place with lots of stores and shoppers. I wish that would be the case again.”
New shops coming, owner says
If all goes as planned, Crowley and many other Napa Valley residents will have their wish within the next year, according to property owner Todd Zapolski.
Zapolski and his developers have grand plans for the tired and close to deserted shopping center, which has been renamed The Shops at Napa Center.
The plans to remodel and breath life into the center started in 2011.
“We have been working on this going on two years,” Zapolski said. “Our plans are to open in 2014.”
The number of vacancies in the center doesn’t worry Zapolski.
“We don’t want to fill them right now. We don’t have any signed leases for new tenants at this time,” he said. “We are in the process of building relations with potential retailers. We don’t just sign one lease at time.”
Zapolski said The Shops at Napa Center will be mostly retail.
“We have plenty of fine restaurants downtown. We will have the restaurants that are already in the center,” he said.
“But the focus is on street retailers for locals and tourists alike. We want to get great tenants, not necessarily nationwide retailers, but local and regional. Customers want to shop for recognized brands and also for unique items. And that’s what we plan to bring to the center.”
New shopping center will be bigger
The Shops at Napa Center will encompass five parcels including the current Napa Town Center, the Dunne Building where the Ceja Vineyards Tasting Salon is located, the long-vacant Merrill’s Drug Store and Thea Witsil's thriving Wildcat Vintage Clothing, all on First Street.
“The Shops at Napa Center will be larger than the now Napa Town Center,” Zapolski said.
The City of Napa has plans in the works to change First Street from a one-way road to a two-way, and also to open Coombs Street where it dead-ends at First Street.
“That will make the traffic flow much better through downtown. People can take First Street off Highway 29 to downtown. No more zigzagging around the one way streets. It will connect downtown all the way from the west end of First Street to the OxBow Market,” Zapolski said.
As for parking, Zapolski says there's plenty: Between the Clay and Pearl streets garages, there are 720 parking places. “And there are the service lots and off-street parking,” he added.
Napa Valley Jewelers owner Kent Gardella is looking forward to the revamped shopping center.
“I have been here for 20 years and have had four property landlords. The center has not any major improvements for at least nine years,” Gardella said.
“I know he (Zapolski) is looking for tenants, but now with the retail environment, it’s hard right now, that’s every where. There is talk of a seven-story hotel in the old Merrill’s, more activity at the center and more shops at the east end of First Street.
"Exciting things are happening in downtown Napa. I think it’s going to bring more locals and tourists here to enjoy what we have to offer,” Gardella said.
What businesses would you like to see in The Shops at Napa Center when 2014 rolls around? Tell us in the comments.
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