Posted on: November 15, 2023
A proposal to create 46 apartments for the workforce in downtown Napa is coming together.
About 100 people attended an open house Nov. 13 to learn about the new housing, which would be located at Napa’s First United Methodist Church property on the corner of Randolph and Fourth streets. The new housing is a joint project between the church, Napa Valley Community Housing and Burbank Housing.
The project’s 46 units would be split across a four-story building, in one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, said Rick Williams, the project’s architect. Plans call for at least 48 parking spaces in a garage, along with bike parking, as well as an indoor community gathering space and outdoor play areas for children.
The historic church sanctuary building would remain untouched, he said.
About 6,000 square feet of the new indoor community space would be shared with the church to support congregation activities and address community needs, potentially including child care.
The project may also include rebuilding the so-called Triangle Park at the corner of Division and Franklin streets, Williams said. That is still being worked out.
Marylee Sheffer, the church’s pastor, said she felt the project will use the church’s property and resources to benefit the Napa community.
“We are really, really excited about the possibility of fulfilling our mission to help those in need,” Sheffer said.
The project unofficially began about five years ago, according to Dave Whitmer, who leads the congregation’s “transformation team,” which is overseeing the project. He said church officials asked him what could be done with a church building that had once served homeless people.
Known as Adams Hall, the building was a place for people to go during the day, with laundry facilities, showers and other services. When Napa’s homelessness services moved to South Napa Marketplace, the congregation was left with an empty hall.
It would cost a lot to renovate the building, Whitmer said, so the congregation began thinking of other possible uses.
“I asked the team to dream about what we might do here on our campus,” Whitmer said. “We evaluated what the community was telling us what they believed were the biggest issues that they believed we were facing here in our community, and housing kept coming up.”
The church has now been in an exclusive negotiation agreement with Burbank and Napa Valley Community Housing for about six months, he said.
“At the end of the day, for us, it’s really about helping the community figure out a way for folks who work in this community to be able to live here and not have to commute here,” Whitmer said.
Karen Massey, project manager at Burbank Housing, said the project team hasn’t had formal conversations with the city yet. They first wanted to share the vision of the preliminary project and get feedback.
So, that means the project is still several years away. The team expects to submit an application to the city early next year, Massey said. And it will likely take much of the year to get through the city’s approval process, she added.
The team is hoping to start construction on the project at the end of 2025, and complete it about a year later.
Erika Sklar, CEO of Napa Valley Community Housing, said there’s a great need for such a project in Napa. The local cost of housing has gone up significantly in the past 20 years, she said, and wages haven’t kept pace.
That causes tremendous impact on the local economy, she said, and frays the fabric of the local community.
“Everything points towards: this is how we make our community whole, and keep the fabric together, and we keep it healthy,” Sklar said.
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