By Jake Phuc Mai, Student Representative, ULI Office and Commercial Initiative Council
Dana Point Harbor has been the focal point of what defines the coastal city, ranked as #1 on the to-do list by Trip Advisor (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g32279-Activities-Dana_Point_California.html). The Harbor consists of a variety of local activities such as shopping, dining, fishing, whale watching, kayaking, and of course, the Ocean institute, which provides an educational experience on a pirate ship. For several decades, since its inception in 1971, the Harbor has not only provided a great place to spend time with friends or family, but also a strong source of revenue for the city. In recent years, due to having no improvements done since its opening, the Harbor has struggled to continue breathing life into the city. Today, the buildings and docks are falling apart. The revenue has stayed stagnant while the expenses to maintain and operate the Harbor continues to increase year by year. The County projects that the $5 million in net income the Harbor generates are expected to fall over the following years.
Waking up to the realization that the Harbor is vital to tourism in the City of Dana Point and the County of Orange, in 2003, the process of revitalization began. The City of Dana Point and California Coastal Commission worked together to draft a final concept re-designing the aging Harbor in 2010.
During the quarterly meeting of the ULI Office and Commercial Initiative Council, Scott Mayer, Chief Real Estate Office of Orange County, provided an overview of the plan including the progress that has been made toward the vision of revitalizing the Harbor. Initially, the County wanted to take on the project themselves, as it turns out, based on the figures they drew up, the expected costs to have the Harbor renovated would be $200 million. Unfortunately, this was too expensive for the County, having only $55 million in its reserves. The County looked to find different solutions in conjunction with the private sector to have this project completed. The premises of the proposed leased offerings were drafted, in which the County will seek to enter into a long-term ground lease with the private sector. The premises include:
- The West Marina
- The East Marin
- The Commercial Core
- The Hotel
- Other outlying areas, which includes the islands as well
These proposed leased offerings are what the County believes would generate the most interest from the private sector as well as the most lucrative. There are currently three proposals that are being reviewed through the County’s panel. The decision is to be made by September 2016. Although the identities of the private sector candidates were not given, Mayer adds that the candidates were, “highly qualified.”
“After fifty years of service, the Dana Point Harbor revitalization plan is well deserved and needed for the success of the existing merchants and the thousands of families who enjoy the harbor throughout the year,” stated Bob Caudill, with Colliers International and Vice Chair of the ULI Office and Commercial Initiative Council.
The RFQ documents are provided in the city website, and can be found here (http://www.danapoint.org/businesses/harbor-revitalization).