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Watson Ranch could transform American Canyon

American Canyon has long been overlooked by most people headed for Napa Valley – just as the city of Napa was bypassed in decades past when visitors went to St. Helena and Calistoga.

American Canyon has long been overlooked by most people headed for Napa Valley – just as the city of Napa was bypassed in decades past when visitors went to St. Helena and Calistoga. But that may be changing as the county’s southernmost city adds businesses, housing and hotels, with some already under construction and others in the pipeline.

The biggest change to the city, however, will be the giant 309-acre Watson Ranch development that will include a dramatic new “town center” at the abandoned cement factory just east of Highway 29.

The Watson Ranch Project, one of the most exciting developments ever proposed for Napa County, could change perceptions of American Canyon from a sleepy bedroom community to a prime destination in Napa County and the North Bay.

“It’s a game-changer,” said Jesse Holley, the city manager on American Canyon. “It will be a destination unlike anything else in wine country. It will be where wine country meets the urban area.”

The new development by McGrath Property of St. Helena is within American Canyon city limits but near the hills that frame it to the east. Reusing the dramatic old furnace and silo as well as other ruins, the new Napa Valley Ruins & Gardens will include space for community and private gatherings, a new hotel and two impressive new performance spaces, as well as parks, trails and new residential neighborhoods with about 500 housing units.

The complex will include an event center for weddings and special events, a mobile food venue, farmers market, winery, distillery, brewery, associated tasting facilities, community plaza, picnic area and many other attractions. It is expected to have a soft opening late this year.

From it, residents and visitors can access the Napa Valley Vine Trail, River to Ridge Trail, Jaeger Mountain Bike Course and the Newell Open Space.

The developers have also proposed two amphitheaters that could change the concert scene in Napa Valley. The project consists of a 3,300-seat outdoor Quarry Lake amphitheater with a 2,400-square-foot stage, as well as an 800-seat outdoor Fig Tree amphitheater with a 1,650- square-foot stage on the eastern side of the ruins.

The Quarry Lake Amphitheater will include food and bar services. It certainly could be a premier location for some of the big events increasingly coming to Napa Valley.

The 200-room Hotel @ the Ruins and 30 condominiums were approved by the city’s Planning Commission in January 2023. They expect to name a well-known operator soon and break ground late this year.

And, in what could be a big plus for everyone in Napa Valley, the city is also planning a road along the east side that will eventually let cars and trucks largely bypass busy Highway 29 in “downtown” American Canyon.

Watson Ranch held its groundbreaking on July 8, 2021, for constructing the master backbone infrastructure at Watson Ranch. This was completed in November 2023.

Now under construction is Lemos Pointe, a 186-unit affordable apartment complex. Occupancy is planned for early 2024.

DR Horton is building Artisan @ Watson Ranch, 98 single-family residential homes. Most of these homes have been sold, with only a few more available for home buyers.

Harvest @ Watson Ranch, also from DR Horton, will comprise 219 single-family residential homes of 1,583 to 1,824 square feet. Three floor plans are available for home buyers.

For more, see WatsonRanchProject.Com.

In addition to the 503 housing units proposed for Watson Ranch, other residential projects are underway.

Canyon Estates is a 35-lot custom home community at the northeast corner of Silver Oak Trail and Newell Drive.

Oat Hill Multifamily Housing Project is a 291-unit apartment development near the intersection of Hess Road and Napa Junction Road.

Napa Cove Apartments Project is a 66-unit affordable apartment development between Melvin Road and Highway 29.

The following development projects have been proposed:

The Residences at Napa Junction Project, a 453-unit apartment development north of the Canyon Ridge Apartments, and Crawford Way Multifamily Project, a 100-unit townhome-style apartment project at the southwest corner of the Crawford Way and Highway 29 intersection.

The city is also creating an Ecology Center by repurposing the 5,000 square foot City Corporation Yard on three acres at 205 Wetlands Edge Road. The project will provide indoor and outdoor instructional uses and community activities that focus on conservation and environmental science, nature art and wellness programs.

Clearly, the transformation of American Canyon is underway.