Remodel of downtown Napa’s ornate Gordon building to begin

By Jennifer Huffman, Napa Valley Register

It’s been sitting unused and empty since the August 2014 earthquake in Napa, but changes are in the works for downtown’s historic Gordon Building.

Property owner Todd Zapolski of Zapolski Holdings announced plans to begin a complete renovation and earthquake retrofit of the 1930s-era structure, noteworthy for its glazed terra cotta siding and cast-molded floral detailing.

“It’s a jewel,” said Zapolski. “It’s an iconic piece of downtown and we want to get it back in service.”

A partnership including Zapolski Holdings bought the building in 2013 from George and Jacqueline Altamura.

The plan is to fold it into the First Street Napa project on the west side of Coombs Street Plaza. Zapolski Real Estate and partner Trademark Property Company are redeveloping that center, which now includes tenants such as Lululemon, Tommy Bahama, Lush, Kalifornia Jean Bar, Mecox and others. The Archer Hotel Napa, developed by LodgeWorks Partners, anchors the block.

After Zapolski’s 2013 purchase, some commercial tenants remained in the Gordon Building. Space for lease was advertised.

“Then the earthquake hit and we pretty much shut it down,” said Zapolski.

Today, the building requires extensive retrofitting and major structural improvements, Zapolski said. “It’s very complicated engineering,” but, “once it’s done it’s an absolute tank.”

From the outside the Gordon Building will retain its historical look, he said. The two-story, 20,000-square-foot building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It is named for businessman Samuel Gordon, who owned downtown real estate.

Zapolski said he feels a responsibility to complete the work. He pointed out that there are at least a dozen other properties in the area that also need renovations, but remain unimproved.

“That doesn’t help when we look at our community,” he said. “We have to move on and get the place cleaned up.”

The developer declined to say how much the remodel would cost, only that it is “expensive and getting more expensive.”

Zapolski said one common misconception is that he bought the building to either demolish it or to add many more floors above.

“That’s never been the case,” said Zapolski. “We’re not trying to drastically change the property, we’re trying to maintain it.

“We’re going to spend the money and time to do it right,” he said. Once complete, “It will be vibrant and awake, not dormant.”

The plan is to start on the interior work and get the building structurally sound, “so we can then look at what the uses can be.”

He’s not sure yet, but it’s likely the first floor will include some kind of retail tenancy. Commercial tenants could fill the upper floor.

Because the holiday season is approaching, Zapolski said major work will likely be held off until after December.

“We don’t want to disturb the other retailers during the holidays” by blocking sidewalks or any construction traffic, he said.