COPIA

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COPIA in Napa, California

COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts was a cultural museum and education center dedicated to the discovery, understanding, and celebration of wine, food and the arts in American culture. COPIA was located in the Napa Valley in the town of Napa, California. The center celebrated its grand opening on November 18, 2001[1] and closed its doors on November 21, 2008.

Summary[edit]

Julia Child played an important role in the establishment of the COPIA center.

COPIA was a non-profit discovery center whose mission was to explore, celebrate, and share the pleasures and benefits of wine, its relationship to food, and its significance to culture. Located in Napa Valley, COPIA offered visitors wine and food tasting programs, exhibitions, organic edible gardens, films, concerts, fine and casual dining, and shopping. Famed chef Julia Child lent her support to the venture which featured a restaurant named Julia's Kitchen. Proceeds from ticket sales, membership and donations attempted to support COPIA's payoff of debt, educational programs and exhibitions, but eventually were not sufficient.

History[edit]

In 1988, vintner Robert Mondavi, his wife Margrit Biever Mondavi, and other leaders in the wine community began to explore the idea of establishing a small institution in the Napa County to educate, promote, and celebrate American excellence and achievements in the culinary, winemaking, and visual arts arenas.

Partner organizations – the University of California at Davis, the Cornell University School of Restaurant and Hotel Administration, and the American Institute of Wine & Food – joined forces to develop the idea into a major not-for-profit cultural institution. In 1993, Robert Mondavi acquired the land for COPIA for $1.2 million, followed by a lead gift of $20 million.[2] James Polshek was hired by the foundation as the architect for the building in October 1994. Subsequently, the "Founding Seventy," key supporters from Napa Valley and the surrounding Bay Area, made substantial donations. Initial financing totaled $50 million which was leveraged against $78 million in bond debt financing prior to opening in 2001. Construction of the facility triggered a significant growth in development of a gourmet marketplace, hotels and restaurants in downtown Napa. [3]

Food and wine pairing seminar at COPIA.

Although the facility did attract visitors, the local resident's support failed to materialize in the numbers expected by the founders.[4]

Grapevines from COPIA's edible garden.

Bankruptcy[edit]

Original projections of attracting 300,000 admissions per year proved to be far too optimistic. In September 2008 COPIA CEO Garry McGuire announced that 24 of 85 employees were being laid off and the days of operation would be reduced from 7 to 3 per week.[5] Attendance figures had never reached either original or updated projections, causing the facility to operate annually in the red since its opening. In November, he announced that the property would be sold due to unsustainable debt.[6] COPIA "temporarily" closed in late November 2008 with approximately $80 million in debt, and then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 1. The federal bankruptcy court blocked a $2 million emergency loan with priority in security, leaving COPIA with no funds to resume operations. Consequently, the organization announced in late December that it was closing its doors for good.[7]

Following the 2008 closing of COPIA, a group of investors, developers, advocates, and vintners named The Coalition to Preserve Copia was formed to explore a plan to preserve the building and grounds.[8] Part of the group's plan included forming a Mello-Roos district with participation of local hotel properties to finance bonds to purchase the property but their effort failed.[9]

In May 2009 local developer George Altamura spoke about his interest in purchasing the property.[10] Other developers including The Culinary Institute of America also expressed an interest in acquiring the property. COPIA's bond holder; ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation listed the property for sale in October 2009.[11]

In the period following the closing of the center, the iconic copper pots and pans belonging to Julia Child were removed from the restaurant named after her and sent to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, where they are included in the Julia Child's kitchen exhibit. Napa Valley College's upper valley campus became the home of the center's library of over 1000 cookbooks. By late 2010, local chefs had revived the center’s garden and the parking lot had become the location of a weekly farmer's market.[12] In an April 2012 auction, most of the center's fixtures, furniture, equipment, wine collection (over 3500 bottles), dinnerware, displays, artistic items, and antiquities were sold.[13]

As of mid-2013, the building, including its theater, had been used, since COPIA closed, for a few meetings and events, including the Napa Valley Film Festival and BottleRock. In May 2013, plans to modify part of the former gallery on the second floor of the museum, to convert it to commercial office space, were rejected by the Napa Planning Commission.[14]

Facilities[edit]

COPIA included 13,000 square feet (1,200 m2) of gallery space for exhibitions of art and culinary history and science; a 260-seat theater for films and lectures; a rare-books library; classrooms with audio-visual capabilities; a 74-seat demonstration kitchen forum; a gourmet dining room named for honorary trustee Julia Child, which featured a dramatic open finishing kitchen; a tasting table with an expansive selection of wines from across the United States; a 700-seat outdoor concert terrace; a café; a museum gift shop; and three and one-half acres of landscaped organic edible gardens for hands-on learning about soils, farming, and viticulture. There was also ample parking in two parking lots with a total 341 parking spaces.

The Design Architect of the original COPIA project was Polshek Partnership Architects; Architect of Record was Fong & Chan. The Landscape Architect was Peter Walker & Partners. Auerbach Consultants provided theatre consulting and COPIA's interior and architectural lighting design.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Severson, Kim (2001-11-15). "The table is SET: Napa's ambitious Copia, celebrating food, wine and the visual arts, opens this weekend". SF Chronicle. p. D-1. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  2. ^ Courtney, Kevin (November 12, 2001). "On the Napa Oxbow". Napa Valley Register (Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved October 30, 2010. 
  3. ^ Yune, Howard (June 10, 2012). "Copia's children: Doomed wine center spurred high-end tourism in downtown Napa". Napa Valley Register (Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved June 10, 2012. 
  4. ^ Huffman, Jennifer (November 7, 2010). "Copia employees look back". Napa Valley Register (Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ Huffman, Jennifer (2008-09-27). "Copia Lays Off Staff, Cutting Days Open". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  6. ^ Courtney, Kevin (2008-11-14). "Copia looks to sell, but stay". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  7. ^ Moskin, Julia (2008-12-23). "Napa Culinary Center, in Debt, Forced to Close". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  8. ^ Huffman, Jennifer (2009-04-25). "Salmon, Price explore the revitalization of wine center site". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  9. ^ Huffman, Jennifer (2009-06-07). "Hotel users may be key to revival of Copia". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  10. ^ Huffman, Jennifer (2009-05-30). "Altamura interested in Copia". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  11. ^ Huffman, Jennifer (2009-10-03). "Copia officially up for sale". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  12. ^ Huffman, Jennifer (November 7, 2010). "Copia two years later". Napa Valley Register (Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  13. ^ Davis, Kip (April 22, 2012). "Curtain closes on Copia liquidation auction". Napa Valley Register (Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  14. ^ Huffman, Jennifer (July 30, 2013). "Copia reuse plan in jeopardy, developer warns". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°18′10″N 122°16′50″W / 38.302735°N 122.280664°W / 38.302735; -122.280664