Drinking and the Art of Economic Development

I’m making a re-entry into this blog…been quite a while.  Took a break for a million reasons, the biggest one being that this natural born consultant took a job (gasp!) In city government!!  Unexpected life twist!!!
Careers are fluid and I’m certainly down with that vibe, but I was asked to serve in an administration that I believe in – so here I am an appointee in Mayor Andy Schor’s cabinet and we’re closing in on the end of our first year.  It fits the bill for me in all ways – more work and more education than you can imagine and meets the Neen James  work credo I adopted years ago of working on projects you love, in places you love, with people you love.  So I’ll be here as long as the Mayor wants me and I’ll share some of the things we’re working on but to stay really up on those just set your google alerts for Lansing, MI and watch it happen in live time – because as the boss says “Lansing’s Time is Now!”
I was able to take some bleisure time last week and head out to the Bay Area.  Lansing was selected as the second Retail Revival city by ebay so I had some work to do there and was in need of a visit to two of the four cutest children on earth.  So – headed out to Napa, CA for a couple of days…
Napa, CA is an actual city.  Like a real city, the engine and anchor of the mythical Napa Valley.  I’m an urbanist and lover of how cities work, the mechanics and logistics of it all.  From the civics and leadership, to the design- both haphazard and intentional, to the public works and all the engineering that goes along with making a city happen everyday.
It’s even more interesting in a place like Napa where they serve as a backbone to the most civilized of adult playgrounds and agricultural wonders.  Magical wineries made for sunset photos and milestone occasions.  Behind all that beauty, somewhere someone is thinking about water, housing, hazard mitigation, smart growth, resilience, zoning, waste management, equity and every other urban challenge.  I love finding that place and seeing what people are thinking.  Preferably while drinking great beer and wine, enjoying wonderful cheese, and contemplating great art…


Professionally I’m familiar with Napa as they are a fellow Invest Health city, where their team is working diligently on revising housing ordinance to reflect the needs of their community to  address the mass shortage of affordable housing and keeping the now very house rich older residents in their homes.  All this, while adhering to smart growth strategies that keep their most vital resource, the pristine valley, intact. They’re focused on ordinances addressing and incentivizing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior ADUs.  That’s a sticky wicket for sure…
So with this backdrop I set out with Paper Napan Walkabouts to see some sites.  Paper Napan refers to a “non native local” in Napa, a sophisticated dis as the native locals are Linen Napans.  Tour operator Kim McGinness is a Paper Napan married to an Aussie (hence, Walkabouts).  A veteran of the travel industry, when relocating to Napa she looked to create a unique experience to compliment the existing kayak, wine tasting, hot air ballooning, b&b market.  Simultaneously, the Rail Arts District RADNapa was taking off in Napa along the Napa Valley Wine Trail where 12.5 miles of an ambitious 47 mile trail have been constructed.  Kim took these public private investment assets and sought to craft a tour that takes you inside Napa and takes a walk through what most people fly by in the Wine Train.

Back lit multiple wall map of Napa Valley at CRU @ the Annex


Flood gates that close and divert water flooding Ox Bow Commons and sparing downtown #sexyinfrastructure indeed

The tour takes you along the trail into some great stops and lands you at what is by far, the biggest work of art in Napa — the Ox Bow Commons project — a wonder of engineering and public investment.  Read about its development HERE  This investment made possible the downtown revitalization happening in Napa.
Ambitious non motorized transit trails, magnificent infrastructure investment, world renowned works of public art, and an insider look at boutique wineries and breweries in the heart of Napa.  Combining all my favorite things into one place and bringing me back to my writing here to share them with you.  Hope you travel widely and get into the guts of the places you go…

Wine tasting at Robert Craig with the hilarious Corey accompanied by topographical map – yes, please


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