From Napa Valley Register: TOP STORIES OF 2015, NO. 1: Earthquake aftermath

December 30, 2015  • 

No. 1: Earthquake aftermath 

Most Napans have moved on from the August 2014 earthquake. But for others, daily reminders of the quake and its aftermath remain.

Evidence of incomplete recovery can still be seen as 2015 draws to a close: homes jacked up for new foundations, scaffolding wrapped around the sides of downtown buildings, stores that never reopened.

Depending on the source, the quake caused an estimated $443 million to $800 million in damages involving thousands of properties. Many underwent quick repairs and life today is back to normal. But not for all.

In late 2015, the Napa Valley Community Foundation allocated another $1 million to aid homeowners who still need financial help in putting their homes back together.

Some of the most visible reminders of the quake are to be found in Napa’s downtown, where businesses continue to feel the brunt of the seismic forces that rocked Napa.

In July, after months of uncertainty, the owners of McCaulou’s department store decided not to reopen. Water pipes burst during the quake, soaking the store, which is part of a small Northern California chain.

“It poured serious water into the two-story building for six to seven hours,” building owner Todd Zapolski said of the quake. The store would have needed extensive repairs , triggered bringing the building up to current building codes, adding yet another layer of expense, he said.

The downtown Safeway was another quake victim. After months of questions about the store’s fate, Safeway made the closure official in May, leaving the center of Napa without a full-service supermarket.

In a move that prompted public protest, the United States Postal Service in July proposed to demolish the downtown post office building that was damaged by the quake.

The agency said that it would cost $8 million to repair quake damage, while it would only cost $500,000 for demolition. After community outcry, the federal agency reversed course and said it would sell the building to a buyer who can repair the structure and preserve its architectural integrity.

“Selling the post office is the best way to preserve this historic structure,” said Rep. Mike Thompson. “The Franklin Station Post Office is one of our community’s crown jewels.”

Prospective buyers toured the property this fall, but a buyer has not been announced. A temporary postal facility opened last summer at Second and School streets.

In September, the Napa Valley Register building, which was jolted by the quake, was sold to a San Diego residential development group for about $5 million.

The site, home to the newspaper for 50 years, was sold to Vesta Pacific Development, which is discussing with city officials the possibility of building a mixed residential and commercial development on the 1.3-acre site.

The Register’s building was damaged during the earthquake and the printing presses put out of action. With the paper now printed out of county, the Register said it no longer needed the 21,000-square-foot headquarters on Second Street. The paper’s new location has not been announced.

Alexandria Square — a commercial complex at Second and Brown streets — was shrouded in scaffolding and netting during 2015 as it underwent $2 million in repairs, but the work is nearly done, owner Mike DeSimoni Sr. said last week. The scaffolding should come down the first week in January, he said.

The majority of the pre-quake occupants have moved back, including the Carpe Diem restaurant, several attorney offices and the Visit Napa Valley tourism agency.

On the same block, at Brown and Third streets, Brian Silver is working on plans to build a new five-story building that would incorporate several properties damaged by the quake. The facade of landmark Center Building would be retained.

Silver said last week that the project could cost $20 million and take five years.

Across the street, the oldest section of the Napa County Courthouse has been closed since the quake, with county officials still working on an assessment of what it will cost to restore the landmark to working order.

Repairing the building will cost millions more than constructing it, officials said. The county paid $51,000 to build the courthouse in 1878, or about $1.1 million in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Earthquake repairs for the county administration building across Third Street cost $1.3 million, while repairs to the county’s Carithers building on First Street cost $1.8 million. Neither building had the historic considerations of the old courthouse that will add to repair costs.

The county won’t know the extent of the courthouse earthquake repairs until the building is shored up and inspectors go inside to assess the damage. Whitney expressed hope that an estimate might be available by May or June.

The exterior of the Vintner’s Collective building on Main Street was heavily damaged by the shaking. In recent months, the work was completed and scaffolding removed.

Down the street, building owner Jeff Doran celebrated a successful remodel of his property, the Napa Steam Laundry building at 1600 Main St. Doran said he spent about $600,000 on the work.

The completion of the repair in April, “represents a watershed moment in preserving Napa’s history,” said Doran at the time. The building, which was constructed in 1884, is “born again.”

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