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‘Napa Pipe’ redevelopment to encourage urban wineries

A new development in the City of Napa may encourage 'wine ghettoes' where small-scale wineries can pool resources, officials say.

Pipe dreams…an artist’s impression of the finished development

After eight years of deadlock, the plan to convert 62.3ha of abandoned industrial property on the Napa River into a ‘mixed use’ residential and commercial community was approved on Tuesday by Napa County.

County Supervisor Keith Caldwell called the development a ‘blueprint for city-centred growth. Our workforce will live in the cities while protecting our agricultural land.’

Known as the Napa Pipe, the proposed development includes 954 homes, 13.75ha of publicly accessible parks, trails and a community farm.

There will also be ‘substantial land available for industry,’ Keith Rogal of developers Rogal, Walsh and Mol said.

This would potentially include small-production wineries modelled after so-called ‘wine ghettoes’ in urban and suburban areas like Walla Walla and Santa Barbara (an office park dominated by distribution centres not far from the Napa Pipe has been burgeoning) where small wineries — making as little as 1,000 cases — can operate independently but share resources.

‘We would love to see that,’ Rogal said. ‘Obviously, there are a lot of people who want to be a part of the [winemaking] community, but it would be good for it to be more accessible.

A Costco is part of the plan and is likely to be the first thing built. Located on the east side of the property, Rogal promised that it will ‘feel like it’s not a part of the neighbourhood’ while providing more than 200 jobs, and an estimated US$100m in annual tax revenue.

The deal was finally pushed through with political compromises on all sides, and complex agreements made over tax and water rights between Napa City and Napa County.

While there has been opposition from the grape-growing community, which is worried about the development’s use of precious ground water, lobby groups have expressed satisfaction with the deal.

‘There is only so much development that the county can absorb and remain an agricultural centre, Sandy Elles of the Napa Valley Farm Bureau said. While the Bureau’s first choice would have been for the area to stay industrial (even if it was unused), overall she said she is ‘pleased with the agreement: Affordable housing can and should be built in the urban core of Napa Valley.’

‘The wine business has served this county very well,’ Caldwell said, pointing out that grape-dominated agriculture is a US$11.5bn industry and that Napa attracts almost as many tourists every year as Disneyland.

The next step is to submit a development plan to the County and Rogal predicts that clean-up and infrastructure work will begin early next year. Development will roll out in phases over the next 10-15 years.

Written by Courtney Humiston in Sonoma

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