A major new wrinkle to the Napa Pipe plan is the introdution of Costco as a possible tenant there, along with the proposed residential and other components. In order to really understand the impact, it is necessary to examine the overall retail situation in Napa as a whole.
One of the issues with the jail downtown has been the fact that downtown Napa already has too much of a retail footprint--just look at the empty storefronts. Opening up another large space to retail if the jail leaves will only add to that problem. If you want new stores downtown, for which there is widespread support, you need to have sufficient customers as a base to support them.
This is why Wal Mart told American Canyon they wouldn't come in until they had developed more nearby residential, so American Canyon did so. Although I haven't asked him, this has to be a major reason why it is taking Todd Zapolski so long to get tenants for the Shops in Napa, formerly the Town Center.
That is why the downtown merchants have said they would like to see another one thousand hotel rooms downtown. Those are customers for retail stores.
I have supported the downtown plan in Napa and especially would like to see more housing built there. Besides providing customers to the downtown area, people who live there could theoretically walk to work if they work downtown, thus helping with the traffic issue. Those units would be expensive but hopefully some of the workers could afford them.
Even though Costco will be close to town, it is still a satellite area that will require everyone to get in their cars and go there. At least with downtown you have a chance to build it as a walkable community and have some people go via bicycles or public transit. This is what the downtown plan calls for.
Right now we don't have enough customers to support the retail we already have, enough to please the business owners at least. If we add a Costco without adding significant population, that is going to take business away from someone else. Look at the items Costco sells, wine, food, clothing, furniture, etc and you are going to see a decrease in sales at other stores who sell these items.
You are also going to see reduced tax collections in the other stores. This effect may be ameliorated by bringing some business back to Napa that goes to other towns, or by bringing some people in from other towns, but the likelihood is that Costco will impact the two Wal Marts and Safeway's that are in Napa County, perhaps even putting someone out of business. Gillwoods mentioned that increased competition from all the new restaurants is part of the reason they are closing.
The end result could be another black spot of emptiness in a business district, while people drive out of downtown to shop as a replacement.
The answer for the business community is to constantly push for growth in order to provide new customers, either growth of tourism or growth of residents. In probably 99% of places that wouldn't be a problem, it would be seen as succeeding. In Napa some see it as success and traditionally most have opposed it. We are in an economic set up where we need to constantly grow just to stay even.
The plan to develop Napa Pipe with a Costco, plus all the downtown stores, Gasser, the St. Regis Hotel near Stanley Ranch, plus the new one thousand hotel rooms downtown are all going to need employees, lots of them, and that is just some of the planned growth.
Right now there is not a realistic plan in Napa to handle the traffic that much growth would generate. The Costco itself, like the Wal Mart in American Canyon, will generate a lot of traffic. Some don't seem really concerned about that, perhaps some don't care, perhaps some just figure we will just muddle through. But we should care because it will have a dramatic effect on our quality of life.
What typically happens in communities like this is growth occurs until there is gridlock, and then it stops and traffic barely moves, it slugs along. Growth stops because no business wants to build in that environment, and that is finally how growth is controlled.
I am hopeful that we can find a plan to manage this and cap off the growth before we get to that point. Growth is going to cap off anyway, why not do it in a way that retains a better quality of life for the local residents?
As I was about to post this article, I saw today's announcement from the County and City of Napa, and it appears that this Napa Pipe plan may be an inevitability. What started out as widespread community opposition to Napa Pipe has been worn down by years of fighting and constantly shifting plans. And $70 million dollars worth of effort by the developer.
For me it is not so much about this particular project, but the overall growth in Napa that is going on. Napa Pipe will generate a lot of growth beyond itself, and for those opposed like myself it was a big step forward into turning Napa yet further away from a smaller farming community into a big tourist town.
Are we really going to like that better? I doubt it.
Ironically, our success appears to be destroying the very thing people wanted to move here for, the small town farming atmosphere and sense of community. We will see, unless there is a big revolt from the community that is the path we are on and where we are going to end up, quicker than you think.