Bella Terra owners announce purchase land along Pacific Coast Highway.
A rendering of the proposed Pacific City project in downtown Huntington Beach. DJM Capital Partners bought into the project, which plans to bring an outdoor shopping center, hotel and a condominium to the 31-acre site. (Karen Diehl / December 4, 2012)
A developer with local ties will try to make a long-delayed project — which eventually would bring condominiums, businesses and a hotel to downtown Huntington Beach — a reality.
DJM Capital Partners announced in a press release last week that it purchased about 11 acres of the vacant 31-acre site designated for the Pacific City project. It will be the fourth developer to become involved in the project in the last eight years.
Pacific City seeks to bring 516 residential units, shops, restaurants and an eight-story hotel to the site downtown on Pacific Coast Highway between First and Huntington streets. Crescent Heights, a Florida-based development company, sold the land to Santa Barbara-based DJM and owns the remaining 20 acres.
DJM plans to turn 6.5 acres of the land into an outdoor shopping center and 4 acres into an eight-story hotel.
DJM Development Partners President Lindsay Parton said the company hopes to submit its redesign to the center and hotel for approval in January and open in 2015.
"We've been here and watching that project over the past seven or eight years, and we were very interested, seeing the potential we thought we could bring to that property," Parton said.
Makar Properties originally proposed Pacific City to the Huntington Beach City Council, which approved it in 2004. Makar passed the development onto Farallon Capital Management, which sold it to Crescent Heights in Sept. 2011.
Parton said DJM's redesigns will only need to be approved by City Planning Manager Jane James since the general plan has been approved by the council.
James and Crescent Heights spokesman Steve Afriat weren't immediately available for comment.
DJM was active in the process of purchasing Pacific City when it became available last year. Crescent City gave DJM the chance to get involved in the project after the city "advocated" for the company, which already has a presence in Huntington Beach as owners of Bella Terra, Parton said.
"We feel we have been good to them, and they've been good to us," Parton said of the city. "We have had great success [with Bella Terra] and we just really enjoy the working relationship we have with the city. The city was a big advocate for us in being an owner of Pacific City. They felt we were a logical owner."
While the project has been in the planning stages for eight years, Parton thinks DJM can help move the process along with the city's backing and a few key changes to the proposal.
The original plan had the site separated into three parcels. DJM looks to unite all three into a one-stop "retail, resort experience," Parton said.
"We didn't think the plan, as it was designed and conceived, really worked," he said. "We think it needs to be a general destination of Orange County, just a general shopping center wouldn't really work. … We think that's the reason it hasn't succeeded, and we think it will succeed with these changes."
DJM also looks to redesign the center and hotel from the original proposed Spanish-, Tuscan-themed architecture to one inspired by the California surf culture.
Parton said the center has room for 40 to 50 commercial tenants, with about 10 of those being restaurants. Many of the shops and restaurants will be unique to Southern California and will offer establishments other Orange County shopping destinations, such as South Coast Plaza, Fashion Island and Bella Terra, don't.
DJM's plans for Pacific City do not include residential units.
Parton said many developers shy away from working in Southern California coastal communities because they're usually anti-development, but that wasn't a concern for his company with this project, which has already hit its fair share of road blocks.
"I think Huntington Beach recognizes, especially here at Pacific City, that there's a big hole in the ground and something is going to have to go there, so you might as well make it as good as it can be," Parton said. "We see it as a win-win for everybody."