Because it’s nearly impossible to get approvals for new commercial development in Napa County, Calif., the minds behind the $13 million Calistoga Ranch had to finesse their upscale Wine Country retreat into existence, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
You’d never know it by strolling the grounds today, but the site had been used as a trailer park for many years. So instead of trying to obtain a new set of building approvals for a resort property that would have raised the hackles of Napa locals they kept the existing RV permit as is and customized their project using park models to fit it.
The result: 157 acres of very high-end hotel bungalows and time-share residences. In other words, this is a trailer park even a Getty might enjoy.
“If they didn’t have the preexisting right for an RV park, they would never have been able to do this project,” said Steve Lederer, deputy planning director of Napa County. “You might have to go back 20 years to find a project of this size.”
Indeed, one of the few comparable projects that received approval in the valley in recent decades was the much-admired Auberge du Soleil, which expanded from a restaurant to a resort in 1985 after much public discussion.
Luckily for developer Criswell Radovan, the Auberge folks will run the services at Calistoga Ranch, a slender, crescent-shaped property set in a wooded canyon off the Silverado Trail.
Forty-seven rustic-style guest cottages and six sprawling time-share residences opened last month. A total of 27 time-share residences are planned.
The entrance is off Lommel Road. Hotel guests and time-share residents will leave their vehicles at a reception center upon arrival, and then spend the rest of their stay walking the oak-covered grounds or riding in golf carts.
The experience is bound to be restorative – and hot, because average summer temperatures in Calistoga hit 92 degrees.
“We are selling the privacy of a canyon,” General Manager Seamus McManus said as he led a tour of the grounds the other day. “It’s going to be a very social environment for people who love food, wine and hot weather.”
Of course, it will take a certain level of success to partake in the bounty.
“This is for people who want a $2 million home but don’t want to worry about cleaning the gutters,” McManus said. “Or the guy who goes to Vegas and blows $250,000 at the table. Or the guy in Sacramento who owns a garbage company that picks up trash for thousands of people.”
Sales staff have been combing the Auberge guest rolls for prospective clients, taking their pitch on the road to places like Beverly Hills and Laguna Beach, and relying on word of mouth to talk it up in appropriate circles.
Designed by architects Sandy & Babcock International of San Francisco, the time-share residences will differ slightly in layout, depending on the topography of the site. But the general concept for each home is the same.
The units consist of 3,000 square feet, featuring two generously proportioned sleeping pods, a living-room pod and a kitchen pod, all surrounding a covered outdoor patio area with wood-burning fireplace and sofas.
Adding to the woodsy feel, the indoor pods are connected by outdoor plank walkways that are exposed to the site’s trees, shrubs and sometimes-running creek.
Nature has been relatively undisturbed – in one time-share unit, a magnificent oak has been left to spread its sheltering branches in one corner of the outdoor living area, and in another unit an oak sprouts near the front door.
However, this arboreal privilege will cost you $385,000 for a tenth share, which provides at least three weeks per year. The cost of a fifth share, or at least six weeks per year, is $635,000.
“When you purchase here, it’s like you are purchasing a membership in a country club,” said Daned Kirkham, director of real estate. “The difference here is you’re making lodging reservations instead of tee times.”
“It’s like staying in a five-star hotel that you own a piece of,” McManus said. “And fractional ownership comes with a provisioned kitchen, so you can order your groceries in advance. You can cook, and we’ll clean up. There are a myriad of ways to enjoy the kitchen.”
Hotel guests will get 600 to 1,200 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, consisting of the same kind of sleeping room, living room and outdoor space.
Hotel guest room rates range from $525 to $825 per night for one- bedroom units and go up to $4,500 for the Estate Lodge, a kind of presidential suite with 3,600 square feet.