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Deadline looms for sale of Julia Child and Robert Mondavi’s Copia

NAPA Calif. Creditors are looking to recover about $78 million in bond debt as the Nov. 12 deadline approaches for proposals to buy the 17-acre site of Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in the Napa Valley.

The wine country destination created by wine maker Robert Mondavi and culinary icon Julia Child closed and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last November. Creditors ACA Financial Guaranty Corp., the insurer of Copia’s bonds and a secured creditor, hired Alvarez & Marsal Real Estate Advisory Services LLC to oversee liquidation of the property, which includes three continuous parcels of land on the Napa River that could be sold or leased as a whole or as individual pieces.

Jerry Pietroforte, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal, said Thursday that ACA is still waiting on the final approval of the liquidation plan by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Northern California, but a hearing is scheduled for late October that he hopes will give ACA the green light to find a buyer.

Meanwhile, the deadline for bids is Nov. 12, with the goal of getting a potential buyer or buyers lined up before the end of the year.

“This property’s ideal location in the center of a world-renowned wine region, the quality and significance of its facilities and strong support from local government present an exciting opportunity for a new owner to develop a vibrant and valuable commercial and tourism destination,” Pietroforte said.

So far, inquiries have come primarily from the hospitality industry, he added. Interested parties have also come from the education groups and those interested in mid-density housing.

The site includes Copia’s two-story, 78,632-square-foot building, which previously housed the food-and-wine center.

The building includes the former Julia’s Kitchen restaurant, administrative offices, 13,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 270-seat theater, a library, classrooms with audio-visual capabilities, a 127-seat demonstration kitchen, and a café and retail gift shop.

The property also includes developable land, such as Copia’s gardens and parking lot, as well as the parcel that includes the Oxbow Market, an indoor collection of artisan food and wine sellers.

The Copia property is zoned “CT,” or Tourist Commercial, and is considered part of the Oxbow District, an area designated to encourage hotels and motels and related amenities, according to Alvarez & Marsal.

Founded in 2001 with a $25 million donation from Mondavi, Copia was designed to be a national focal point for the celebration of food and wine. The center, however, reportedly never became profitable.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

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