Sonnenblick Development in the news
Press Release: San Diego, Calif. March 5, 2019
Crittenden Conferences Inc has announced that Los Angeles-based real estate developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, has been chosen to moderate their keynote conference panel at the upcoming Crittenden National Real Estate Conference on April 19th in San Diego, California.
The panel topic is:
New Southern California Construction projects for 2019. The conference will take place at The Hard Rock Hotel in Downtown San Diego.
For more information, please see www.CrittendenNational.com
February 14, 2019 Joseph Pimentel, Bisnow Los Angeles
The price of land and construction costs are so high in Los Angeles and across markets in California, that Sonnenblick said he has decided to move and already directed $400M in new investments to Florida.
Photo: Bisnow/Joseph Pimentel
Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee’s David Kersh, Sonnenblick Development’s Bob Sonnenblick, Greenworks Lending’s Genevieve Sherman and R.D. Olson’s Erika Urbani
Sonnenblick, a scion of a real estate family that dates back 125 years in New York, said he is opening a new office in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami and has put all of his investment and development efforts into South Florida. He is keeping an office and residence in Los Angeles for now.
“This is not by choice,” Sonnenblick said after Bisnow’s Orange County Construction and Development event, where he was a panelist. “It’s almost as if the [SoCal] marketplace is forcing me out. I love living here as a resident, but in terms of doing new business here, specifically real estate development, it’s almost impossible now, unfortunately.”
The cost of doing business in California and specifically Los Angeles and Orange County was one of the main topics panelists discussed at the Feb. 12 event at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine.
Sonnenblick’s decision mirrors the dilemma of many developers and general contractors who are facing the same challenges when attempting to develop new projects in California.
California has some of the highest construction costs in the nation. From 2011 to 2016, construction costs rose 13.6% in Los Angeles/Orange County compared to 12% nationwide, according to the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley. Land prices in California have tripled in Los Angeles and the cost of materials is also going up about 4% to 5% per year, the Berkeley study showed.
Sonnenblick questioned the Berkeley study, saying from his experience construction costs have doubled in the past five years.
“I would give my arm if it only increased 3% a year,” Sonnenblick said. “In the world I live in, if you look at the past five years, we probably averaged 8% to 10% per year compounded increases. Our biggest issues are materials and labor. Right now, labor costs are going up and the premiums that go with it.”
A stiff labor shortage in the state’s construction industry is fueling a sellers’ market, R.D. Olson Chief Financial Officer Erika Urbani said.
“The shortage of labor is driving a lot of issues,” Urbani said. “It’s not just the cost going up. A lot of subcontractors are being overburdened with work. That causes a lot of issues with finding the right subcontractor.”
Photo: Bisnow/Joseph Pimentel
BNBuilders’ James Awford, Frontier Real Estate Development’s Dan Almquist, The Irvine Co.’s Chris Marsh and Raintree Partners’ Jason Check at Bisnow’s Orange County Construction and Development event
Nonprofit labor watchdog Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee Executive Director David Kersh said labor should not be blamed for the rising cost of construction in the state.
Kersh mentioned a recent report that thousands of workers were victims in a $12M wage theft case. In this case, the state of California ordered a subcontractor, RDV Construction, to pay the workers nearly $12M in back wages and penalties, according to the LA Times.
“Right now we have an epidemic of wage theft in the mixed-use [multifamily] and hotel industry so the idea that the workers are the cause or the problem for the rise of labor costs is totally off.”
Though it is difficult to find one single factor to blame for the rise in construction costs in California, the panelists said there is an upside to developing in the various markets in the state.
Sonnenblick said rental rates for retail have gone up. Multifamily projects are in high demand, especially in Los Angeles and Orange County.
There are lending programs such as Commercial Property-Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, that could offset some costs while having a green and energy-efficient building. C-PACE is a type of financing tool that allows a building owner to borrow money for installing energy-saving infrastructure and pay back the investment through a property tax assessment charge.
Sonnenblick said for his company the cost of construction in Orange and Los Angeles counties along with frequent resident opposition and the length it takes to construct and open a ground-up development are still too much.
“We are in a bizarre time,” he said. “There was a time you would find a site, call up your general contractor and the numbers would work. [But now,] those numbers, at least in Orange County and Los Angeles, don’t work.”
Sonnenblick said he decided to stop pursuing development deals in California about three to four years ago.
His company was in negotiations to build a hotel in downtown Los Angeles near the USC Medical Center.
“It was a nightmare,” he said.
“Between the demands of the ridiculous land seller and the city approval process, we dropped the deal,” Sonnenblick said without getting into specifics. “I said, ‘Forget about this.’ I went down to Miami, we were greeted by the mayor with open arms and we found a similar site and now we’re zooming 100 miles per hour.”
Sonnenblick said in today’s landscape in California, it takes a developer eight to 10 years to start making good cash flow off a development project.
“It’s insane, especially when I can go out to various metropolitan areas nationwide such as South Florida, Dallas, downtown Denver and in all of those places you can buy a piece of land and be under construction in one year,” he said. “Here to get through the entitlement process, NIMBYs and local community groups, it takes you in the best case three years.”
Sonneblick said he is keeping his existing portfolio of buildings totaling about 1M SF in Los Angeles and Orange County. His group is currently working on a $40M, 70K SF mixed-use office and retail project on Jamboree Road in Irvine. After nearly three years in the process, the company is still waiting for final city approvals, he said.
But in terms of new business, all of his other projects — about $400M worth of developments such as government buildings, office buildings, hotels and retail — are exclusively in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
“I’m going to keep my headquarters here in Los Angeles,” he said. “I really do like living here. I’m probably going to split my time six months in each place. … I wish I had some opportunities to build here in LA. There is no such thing as a bargain acquisition of land or buildings. Everything is overpriced and we don’t buy assets that are overpriced.”
Even with Gov. Gavin Newsom wanting to build new housing and state Treasurer Fiona Ma wanting to keep businesses here, Sonnenblick wasn’t sure there was any way to keep his business in California.
“I don’t think there is an answer,” he said. “The only thing that is going to keep developers here is if the price of land and price of construction comes down and that’s only going to happen if we go into a recession. I don’t think the governor or any of the state officials can control that.”
Sonneblick said he hasn’t fully given up on California.
“If you know anyone with any good deals here please feel free to call me. We are always actively looking for new projects,” he said.
Press Release: New York City, Feb 14, 2019
IMN Conferences has chosen Los Angeles-based hotel developer Robert Sonnenblick to be the keynote panel moderator for their upcoming Hotel Development & Construction Conference on Feb 25 & 26 at the Downtown Marriott Hotel in New York City.
Construction & Design Differences Between Different Hotel Segments And Brands:
- Full service vs Limited service
- Select service vs Extended stay
- Branded vs un-branded
- Resort vs all-inclusive
- High-rise vs Low-rise
- Concrete vs Steel vs “Stick”
- Hotel garage vs Surface parking
- Roof top pools & bars vs ground floor
- Union construction vs Non-union
Marriott NY Downtown Hotel-85 West Street. For more info, please see: www.IMN.org
RENTV Conferences Inc has announced that Los Angeles-based real estate developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, will moderate their upcoming retail panel entitled “The O.C. Retail Marketplace in 2019: A comprehensive discussion among industry leaders regarding OC retail & restaurant rents, vacancy, and new projects”.
State of the Market Conference
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Find out why the RENTV Conferences are
highly praised by attendees and speakers!!
Please join RENTV for our 4th Annual Orange County State of the Market Conference on Thursday, January 24, 2019. The conference will feature an expert line-up of speakers providing in-depth analysis of the office, retail, industrial and multifamily markets throughout Orange County.
The event will kick-off with a networking breakfast at 7:15 AM and wrap up around noon.
The event is being held at:
Hilton Irvine/Orange County Airport Hotel
18800 MacArthur Blvd.
Irvine, CA 92612
7:15 AM until 12:00 Noon.
A March Ballot Measure in West Hollywood May Put Social Club Project in Jeopardy
Voters in West Hollywood, California, will decide whether the city should rescind its approval for the construction of the Arts Club, a London-based private social club backed by Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow that’s proposing a development designed to upgrade the Sunset Strip at the site of a retail outpost of the adult magazine Hustler.
Paltrow, an advisory board member to the London location and founder of the Santa Monica, California-based lifestyle company Goop, has been working with other investors to open the high-profile, 120,000-square-foot social club in greater Los Angeles. Critics of the project argue the site should be used to address the area’s shortage of housing.
The project is attracting attention well beyond West Hollywood partly because of the prominence of Paltrow as well as the street spanning a mile and a half that came into the national consciousness in the 1950s and 1960s with the television series 77 Sunset Strip. This section of Sunset Boulevard runs between well-known areas, connecting with Beverly Hills on the west and Hollywood on the east.
The club’s proposal, which includes a rooftop swimming pool and guest rooms, requires changes to local zoning that the West Hollywood City Council originally voted to approve this year. But following a petition and criticism from residents and a labor union, the council agreed to allow voters to decide whether they should rescind their original decision on the social club project by issuing a city measure for the March ballot.
The measure before voters is whether the resolution approving the project should be rescinded, according to Yvonne Quarker, West Hollywood city clerk. The city’s general plan and other zoning regulations would have to be amended to allow for increased height and density over what is currently allowed on the site, the city said. About 8,150 square feet of the property was zoned for multifamily residential.
The project would require demolition of the existing two-story 20,000-square-foot office and retail building, which includes a 10,000-square-foot lingerie and sex toy shop operated by Hustler Hollywood as well as offices for the Gay Men’s Chorus and the Plus Development Group involved in the Arts Club project, according to CoStar data.
About a handful of West Hollywood residents as well as members of labor union Unite Here 11 urged the City Council to put the matter to a ballot measure. More than 2,800 signatures were gathered on a petition presented by Unite Here, according to Quarker.
Elle Farmer, research analyst for Unite Here Local 11, said among the union’s issues with the project is zoning. About one-third of the land at that site was zoned for housing.
“Despite a housing crisis, that land is being rezoned for this project for a private commercial development,” Farmer said. “Now West Hollywood voters can decide whether it’s a good use of their resources.”
But Steven Afriat, chief executive of Burbank-based Afriat Consulting Group Inc., a local representative for the Arts Club, said the project has “tremendous community support” and that the proprietors welcome the West Hollywood City Council’s decision to put the project up for a vote as opposed to rescinding it.
Downtown Los Angeles-based Gensler designed the proposed project, at 8920 Sunset Blvd ., to include 14 guest rooms, screening rooms, restaurants, office space, an art gallery and a rooftop swimming pool. It will also have operational decorative glass panels as part of its design.
The Arts Club is also proposing a public benefits package that would total about $12.1 million, according to the City of West Hollywood. It would include building about 2,200 square feet of public gallery space that could also be used as a rehearsal space, and be programmed and staffed by the Arts Club for 25 years and free to the public. It would be curated in coordination with the City of West Hollywood Arts Division. The gallery space is estimated to cost $10.1 million. The Arts Club would also donate $1 million to support the arts in West Hollywood over 10 years and pay an additional cash public benefit of $1 million to the city.
Afriat said the Arts Club has also offered $1 million in traffic improvements.
The opening of the club would mark the British club’s first American outpost.
The original Arts Club dates back to 1863 as a place where men involved in the arts, literature and sciences gathered in London, according to the Arts Club website.
Bob Sonnenblick, chairman at Sonnenblick Development LLC, has stayed at the Arts Club in London which he describes as a “lovely, luxury” hotel.
“The West Hollywood design is certainly beautiful, too,” Sonnenblick said in an email. “If anything, dropping a project of that high quality here just might be too upscale for the current Sunset Strip neighborhood.”
The measures is scheduled to appear on the March 5 general municipal election ballot.
If approved, construction could take up to two and a half years to build.
More From Bob Sonnenblick
I have actually stayed at the Arts Club Hotel in London.
It’s an unbelievably lovely, luxury hotel, located in the Mayfair district of town, one of the City’s most high-end areas…
The rooms & public areas in that hotel are gorgeous, & the service was fabulous. The West Hollywood design is certainly beautiful too.If anything, dropping a project of that high quality here just might be too upscale for the current Sunset Strip neighborhood.
In a nutshell, here is exactly what this dispute is all about:
The developer is proposing a private club. This is just like proposing a condo tower, it is not open to the public.
The opposition is the Unite Here #11 hotel workers union. They want the project to be union-employee staffed, so that their workers would be hired there…regardless of whether it is a private club or a hotel.
The private club has said that it will only hire NON-union workers to work there, once it is completed. The added cost of union worker wages and benefits is very high. Thus, the dispute.
The real truth is that The Union doesn’t truly care if it’s a private club or a public hotel.
This is only about Union vs NON-Union jobs, nothing more…
So if you are Pro Open-Shop hiring, then you like this project, as-is.
If you are Pro-Union hiring, then you don’t like this project.
Its just that simple…
Press Release: New York City – Dec 3, 2018
IMN Conferences Inc. has chosen Los Angeles-based hotel developer Robert Sonnenblick, the Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, to be the marquis panel moderator for their upcoming Hotel Development & Construction Conference on Feb. 25 & 26 at the Downtown Marriott Hotel in New York City.
The topic of the panel is:
Construction & Design & Operational differences between hotel brands and hotel segments…
The panel will be a discussion with industry experts on construction-cost differences and design differences and operational differences between the various brands and differing hotel market segments, such as:
Full Service vs Limited Service
Select Service vs Extended Stay
Branded vs Un-branded
Resort vs All-Inclusive
High-rise vs Low-Rise
Concrete vs Steel vs “Stick”
Hotel Garage Parking vs Surface Parking
Union vs NON-union (effects on both construction and operations)
Roof-Top Pools & Bars vs Ground Floor construction
Los Angeles-based real estate developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, has been chosen by IMN Real Estate Conferences, Inc. to moderate their upcoming LA/Southern California Hotel Update panel focusing on hotel construction, development, finance, supply and demand. The conference will be held at The Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica on Oct 29. See www.IMN.org for info.
Westfield Topanga Readies for Major Renovation
$70 Million Interior Makeover is in Store
CLICK FOR PDF
By Karen Jordan
September 24, 2018
While many developers across the country are giving up on traditional malls, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is investing $70 million to renovate another one of its prime Los Angeles shopping centers.
The company announced this week its Westfield Topanga Mall, a 1 million-square-foot upscale indoor shopping center in the San Fernando Valley’s Warner Center area, is scheduled to be modernized with a sleeker look and updated amentities. It comes at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are ramping up their competition for shoppers with the growing online shopping industry.
The mall is near the company’s outdoor shopping center The Village and its proposed $1.5 billion Westfield Promenade that could replace a failed mall with offices, residences, hotels, entertainment and stadium space on 34 acres at the site.
The announcement follows Westfield’s $1 billion renovation of its sprawling Westfield Century City mall unveiled last year.
The Topanga mall renovation, which is scheduled to begin this fall, is planned to focus on the mall’s interior. Plans include new dark walnut paneling, tiling, new flooring and new, eco-friendly lighting fixtures. The property’s restrooms and family lounges are scheduled to be renovated while new art work and new security cameras are added. New entertainment and restaurant options are expected to be available in the future, according to the company.
Now is the right time for the project, according to Molly Unger, vice president and general manager at Westfield Topanga.
“This is something our customers have been asking for and we think they will love the results,” Unger said in a statement.
The upgrades show how committed the mall’s owner, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, is to Los Angeles, according to Larry Green, executive vice president of U.S. development at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.
“By enhancing the destination’s design, décor, environmental sustainability and technology, we will ensure that it continues to offer one of the very best shopping experiences, not just in the local community, but in the entire country,” Green told CoStar News. “This project, in turn, will also support the city’s goals for the Warner Center and is another step towards the creation of a transit-oriented, lively downtown district with entertainment, office, housing, dining and world class shopping elements.”
Work at the mall, which houses high-end stores including Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton and Cartier, is expected to take place after business hours and not during the mall’s opening hours. The shopping mall, at 6550 Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Canoga Park, California, was built 54 years ago.
The renovation is scheduled to be completed next year.
Jay Rubin, principal at brokerage firm Lee & Associates, said that the renovations should help the mall better compete with the conveniences of online shopping.
“It’s important to modernize and provide modern amenities to get people away from their computers,” Rubin said. “I think Westfield, and any company in that business, is investing a lot of time and resources to figure out how to attract people.”
The mall is near a Metro Orange Line bus station and Warner Center shuttle, and it is located within a zone outlined in the city’s Warner Center 2035 plan, which seeks to redevelop the suburban area into a more modern live-work-play community. The plan, under review by city officials, includes more than 400,000 square feet of office, about 1,400 residential units, two hotels and a 15,000-seat entertainment and sports center.
The low-rise project has drawn criticism from local residents who worry about congestion and construction. But others praise its plans for mixed-use design and walkability.
“The plan is a fabulous concept,” said Bob Sonnenblick, principal of Sonnenblick LLC, who is knowledgable of hotel projects in the area. “I actually think it’s going to become a wave of the future and how large projects are going to be looked at, approved and designed.”
Developers Aim to Take Advantage of the Views and the Vibe
By Karen Jordan
June 1, 2018
Hotel construction has increasingly become part of the view as locals and tourists cruise down Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood, CA.
Credit: Karen Jordan for CoStar Group Inc.
Driving down the Sunset Strip these days, it’s impossible to miss the cranes and other signs of construction happening.
Much of the action revolves around hotels. There are no fewer than five projects underway along this famous patch of boulevard between Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
Bob Sonnenblick, chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, said it boils down to practicality.
“The reason so many hotels are being built on the Sunset Strip is because there is simply no other place on the entire West side where there is high rise-approved land,” he said. “All of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are now down-zoned to a three-story maximum height. Where else can you find a commercially-zoned piece of land to build a high-rise hotel? It just doesn’t exist anymore today.”
That combined with the “amazing city-lights views,” Sonnenblick predicts there will be continued new development on the Sunset Strip.
The mile-and-a-half long Sunset Strip is also “an iconic location around the world,” according to Matthew May, president of May Realty Advisors. “Sunset has amenities. Sunset has views. Sunset has a history. Sunset has branding.”
The large number of businesses, including talent agencies, entertainment entities, restaurants and night life also make it attractive to developers, May said.
» The sun set on the House of Blues Sunset Strip when it was demolished last year. The site is now being transformed into a Pendry hotel. It is being built by Beverly Hills-based Combined Properties and AECOM and designed by Culver City-based Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (formerly Ehrlich Architects).
The project will include a 149-room hotel, 40 residential units and around 25,000 square feet of retail space. In addition, the project will offer for-sale residential condos.
» A boutique hotel is also in the planning stages at 8240 Sunset Blvd., formerly the site of the Sunset Beach restaurant, from developer, A.J. Khair Construction Inc., according to the developer’s website.
» Then there’s the Edition West Hollywood Hotel and Residences at 9040 W. Sunset Blvd., at the intersection of North Doheny Drive, from New York-based developer Witkoff Group, Marriott and LA-based Ian Schrager. It will have 190 rooms and 20 condos, according to the City of West Hollywood. The 4-Star hotel should deliver in September, according to CoStar research.
» The 286-room Jeremy Hotel recently delivered at 8490 Sunset Blvd.
» A proposed project at 8950 Sunset Blvd. is slated to offer a 165-room boutique hotel, according to CoStar data. It would include a “jewelry box” design, according to the developer’s website. The project would also include four residences, according to the City of West Hollywood.
A public plaza will be at the center of the hotel with views through a glass bottom rooftop pool suspended six stories above. There will also be a supper club on multiple levels in addition to residential units, retail space and a recording studio. Santa Monica-based Hirsch Bedner Associates is designing it. It was previously slated to be a James Hotel, according to CoStar research.
» The proposed Frank Gehry-designed, $300-million 8150 Sunset project from developer Townscape Partners has faced some challenges. The state’s 2nd District Court of Appeals recently overturned a previous ruling that was blocking the necessary demolition of the former Lytton Savings Building, where Chase Bank is now, to build the project.
However, the developer was also dealt a blow when, at the same time, the court did not hold a public hearing on closing the right-hand lane from Sunset Boulevard to Crescent Heights. A formal review will now have to be held.
» There were also originally plans for an extended stay hotel at 8500 Sunset. CIM Group sold that property in June of last year to a joint venture between Korman Communities and Brookfield Property Group for about $168 million, or about $885,000 per unit, according to CoStar data. It was the largest recent trade in the area.
Korman Communities’ initial plans to convert the property to an extended stay hotel were blocked by local ordinances that prohibit short-term rentals, according to CoStar Market Analytics. The project opened to renters in the fourth quarter of 2017.
» West Hollywood-based Charles Company has also reportedly filed plans with the city to build a 185-room hotel that would include 7,500 square feet of restaurant space and around a dozen apartments on the Strip. It would be located at Sunset and Doheny and designed by R & A Architecture and Design.
According to May, there may also appear to be a hotel boom on the Strip right now because many of the hotel projects took years to get through entitlements.
Hotels on the Sunset Strip also have distinct advantages over hotels in other parts of the city which mainly rely on Monday through Thursday traffic, according to Alan Reay, president of Irvine-based Atlas Hospitality Group.
“The Sunset Strip capitalizes on Monday through Thursday and increases even more on the weekends because of the entertainment business,” Reay said.
On weekend nights, it is a virtual parking lot as cars and limos cruise to night clubs and restaurants on the Sunset Strip.
“What’s driving the Sunset Strip is developers and lenders are looking at how well it’s doing,” Reay said. “It’s such a strong market.”
Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, has signed on to speak at Bisnow’s upcoming Downtown Los Angeles real estate conference.
PRESS RELEASE: Los Angeles, California
Bisnow Conferences Inc has announced that Los Angeles-based real estate developer, Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, has signed on to speak at Bisnow’s upcoming Downtown Los Angeles real estate conference.
The event will be held on Tuesday April 3rd at The Pettibone Building on 510 South Broadway, in the heart of Downtown LA’s theatre & arts district. The event will kick-off at 3pm & end with a 6pm cocktail reception.
For event ticket information, please go to: www.Bisnow.com/events
Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, to moderate Hotel Industry Event Feb 26-27 2018 NY
Press release: New York City, NY – February 13, 2018
IMN Conference Co has announced that it has chosen Los Angeles-based real estate developer Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, to moderate its upcoming conference panel titled “Hotel Brands & Classes: Today’s Development and Construction issues”.
The conference is IMN’s inaugural Hotel Industry event. It is scheduled for Feb 25 & 26 in New York City, at the World Trade Center Marriott Hotel. Joining Mr Sonnenblick’s panel will be representatives from Marriott Corp, Hilton Hotels, and Hyatt Hotel Corp.
For more information, please go to www.IMN.org
Comparing Different Hotel Classes, Brands And Their Development And Construction Issues
MONDAY FEB 26 2018 4:45 PM
• Family vs. business traveler
• How much should you be spending on hotel construction for different hotels at different price points?
• Lifestyle vs Limited Service vs Extended Stay vs Full Service
• Assessing differences between the Brands within each Hotel Class construction and construction lending
• How importance are the Brand’s worldwide reservation systems?
• Comparing High-rise vs Low-rise construction and cost differences
• Urban vs Suburban construction & design differences
• Branded vs NO-Brand vs, Soft brands in today’s hotel world: Benefits vs challenges
• Condos, master planned communities and mixed use projects
PANAMA CITY, Fla. – The Panama City Marina redevelopment project is at one of its most important stages. For almost a month, the developer of the project, Bob Sonnenblick has been conducting a feasibility study along with officials to ensure his plan can actually be done. The study will assess whether or not certain elements will actually be a part of the project. If the study shows that his plan will not be as successful, then the commission will have to re-evaluate aspects of the plan. An update on his progress is expected soon. “He’s in the middle of doing these feasibility studies now, and so we’re going to get an update from our staff within the next week or so to see where we are,” said Panama City Mayor, Greg Brudnicki. City officials are also working on posting updates about the marina project to their website so residents can keep up with the progress being made. The next commission meeting will be held November 28th at 8am.
“I walk out onto this marina, this empty, fallow, unused marina property, and I look and I see this opportunity there,” marina project developer Bob Sonnenblick told The News Herald. “It’s undeveloped, and that’s the key part of it. You don’t really see that many opportunities like this.”
PANAMA CITY — The sunset at the Downtown Panama City Marina is spectacular.
Bright oranges paint the sky and color the water, while a handful of people gather around the bent banister that edges the T-dock to watch, take pictures or maybe fish for grouper. A few people putter around their boats.
But that’s it.
The marina store has closed for the day. The restaurants where people used to dine have long since been torn down. Structural repairs are needed. The grassy field in the center is often empty now that the Pokemon Go app has faded from popularity.
As seven different developers have told Panama City officials over the years, the space is not living up to its potential. Not even close — which is precisely what California-based developer Bob Sonnenblick likes about it.
“I walk out onto this marina, this empty, fallow, unused marina property, and I look and I see this opportunity there,” Sonnenblick said in an interview The News Herald. “It’s a blank canvas. I can lay it out right so it will work. I see this amazing opportunity. It’s undeveloped, and that’s the key part of it. You don’t really see that many opportunities like this.”
Sonnenblick envisions a place that could become a big tourism draw for the area, with two hotels, an enhanced civic center, retail space, apartments, a splash pad and fishing all around the perimeter. But first he has to pitch his $200 million idea to Panama City commissioners — and residents.
Years in the making
The question of how to best revitalize the marina — and by extension downtown Panama City — has been a perplexing one for years, spanning multiple commissions.
When the city started to really tackle the project in 2011 with consulting company AECOM, the state still held the deed to the marina, which limited the project to a park atmosphere without commercial use. The first concept plan in 2012 featured a lighthouse, a splash pad and the addition of several trees. Ultimately, the planning cost the city $755,576.47.
But it was also right around the time the city’s legal counsel began to question whether the state should, in fact, hold the deed. They took the matter to court and won, which put the land in the city’s control and changed the rules.
Commercial, residential and other uses all became a real possibility. The affair cost the city $108,223.89 — but saved about $89,000 a year for 75 years on submerged ground leases from the state, more than negating the cost.
“In the beginning, we were hamstrung by the deed,” said Mayor Greg Brudnicki, who called the original design an under-utilization of space. “We owed it to people to find out what was possible.”
The commission voted to put the redevelopment out to bid. They gave developers a blank slate, with the only condition being they wanted the project to be an economic driver, as the marina originally was intended to be when it was built by the city in the 1950s.
Proposals came back. The commission whittled it down. Developers dropped out. The city, having already spent $177,308.57 on economists and lawyers, went back to the drawing board.
Sonnenblick came into the picture in May 2016.
‘He’s our guy’
Sonnenblick is the sort of man who shows up to a meetings in a golf polo, responds to emails from almost anyone, uses words like “knucklehead” and pauses during an African safari to leave a voicemail. His quirky personality can at times disguise the lengthy resume that led HomeFed-Leucadia — the company developing Panama City’s SweetBay project — to recommend him for the job.
But here’s his resume: From 1981 to 1991, Sonnenblick completed over $1.5 billion worth of commercial real estate transactions on the West Coast at Sonnenblick-Goldman Corp. of California, including numerous high-end hotels. He then handled multimillion-dollar malls before forming his current company, Sonnenblick
Development LLC, which has worked on projects such as buildings for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is regularly asked to sit on real estate-related panels.
“He’s our guy,” former Commissioner John Kady used to say, adding people wouldn’t believe the “charlatans” the city has seen. Other commissioners have echoed the sentiment.
But that doesn’t mean every project he’s ever proposed has worked out. Earlier this year, he walked away from a 150-room hotel project near the Sacramento International Airport, according to The Sacramento Bee, after failing to secure funding. And in 2016, he walked away from a project in Pierce County, California, after being asked to scale down the design.
When asked about the Pierce County project, he said he didn’t walk away because of scale, but because of money.
“It’s not a question of walking away because they aren’t grand; it’s a question of walking away because they aren’t financially feasible,” he said. “Those are two different things.”
Finding the sweet spot
The phase where those other projects have fallen apart — the feasibility studies — is the phase Panama City entered into Tuesday night with the commission’s unanimous yes vote to continue the process.
This is the phase that will make or break the deal, when concerns about traffic, utilities, the viability of retail and more will be addressed. As Brudnicki put it, this is “the hard part.”
Between now and February, Sonnenblick will be hiring experts to study every aspect of the proposed design and find what works and what doesn’t.
“I am also going to say to the guys doing the feasibility study, ‘By the way, not only critique what I’ve put on the table, but if you guys have any new ideas you want to throw in, throw it on. Put it on the report. Let’s look at it,’” he said. “I’m totally open to any new ideas that will make the project better, and we’ll find that out over the course of receiving the various feasibility studies.”
Many people have critiqued the current proposals — which some fear won’t be supported by city infrastructure and ruin sunset views — even before the studies. To them, the rough design process equated to putting the cart in front of the horse.
But Sonnenblick said that’s how development works, using a traffic study as an example.
“The key thing to the traffic study is to define the number of new trips that the project will create, and once you have that number you can then define mitigation or the answers to the problem,” he said. “But in order to define and calculate a number of new trips, you must have designated here are the trip generators. Here are the number of hotel rooms. Here are the number of restaurants. Here are the number of apartments.”
Using the density proposal — Sonnenblick’s current submission to the city — the studies will suggest what can be done and what would break the deal. Continuing to use traffic as an example, Sonnenblick said it’s possible a turning lane would be added on Beach Drive or changes could be made to Luverne Avenue or Grace Avenue. Four-laning Harrison Avenue, he said, is not an option that would be considered.
If, in the end, the feasibility studies don’t work out, the city and Sonnenblick would part ways. No money has been exchanged between the city and Sonnenblick Development at this point, though the city has spent $372,868.40 on its own economist and lawyers to vet the plan, and officials have said the city won’t lose anything but time.
In fact, city officials say the worst-case scenario is that a deal can’t be reached and the city walks away with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of feasibility studies — paid for by Sonnenblick — that they could hand off to the next interested developer.
If the feasibility studies come back with favorable numbers, the city, which would act as the landlord of the project, would start to work out the details of the deal with Sonnenblick, such as how much rent would be and what incentives, if any, the city would provide.
The design for the marina project will change and change again — and change again — based on the feasibility studies, Sonnenblick has said. But that hasn’t stopped people from forming opinions.
The loudest might be Save the Panama City Marina, a Facebook group that has distributed about 400 lawn signs and some of whose members are vocal critics of the plans so far. About 30 members protested at the most public hearings, saying the development will ruin views, take away public access and kill brick-and-mortar retail. They have said they want a “classic marina.”
The city and Sonnenblick are actively working to address those issues. The city, for instance, is starting to work with the Department of Environmental Protection on building another boat ramp downtown and coming up with a plan to relocate wet-slip tenants during the construction period.
But Sonnenblick also has said that, while he’s listening to the group, it’s not enough to make him turn away from the project.
“There were 30 people out front of City Hall,” he said. “If there were 30 people picketing out of 30,000 residents, that led me even before last week’s city meeting started to be very pleased. Now they’re 30 vocal people, but 30 people out of 30,000 … it’s minuscule.”
Before voting yes, all the commissioners said the majority of people they have spoken to like the current marina concept, though they also said there are parts they don’t like at this point.
But as Commissioner Ken Brown emphasized, chances like this don’t come around every day.
“As far as this marina project, hey, this is the best thing since Carter Liver Pills, I’m gonna tell you,” Brown said. “This is the best thing that is going to happen to Panama City.”
Mr. Robert Sonnenblick, has been chosen to moderate the Hotel Brands panel at Hotel ROI hospitality conference on October 11th
Press Release: September 21, 2017
Hotel Management Magazine and Questex Conferences Inc are pleased to announce that Mr. Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Los Angeles-based Sonnenblick Development LLC has been chosen to moderate the “Hotel Brands” panel at their upcoming Hotel ROI hospitality conference on October 11th.
The conference will be held at the Events Center at Johnson & Wales University in
Charlotte, North Carolina, and will begin at 8am. The Brands panel will feature hotel
industry leaders from across the East Coast.
For more info, go to: www.HotelsMag.com
The Panama City Marina project is moving forward, but not without some contention.
Tuesday’s public meeting on the Panama City Marina brought out many locals. The project’s developer Bob Sonnenblick laid out the latest designs.
Among the changes: more green space, a boardwalk, and a public fishing pier. also includes an amphitheater, water taxi terminal and retail stores with apartments on top.
“While I don’t know all the details. They’ve changed so much about the marina project. I do think that the growth and the potential that it has to bring more people to our area is great and I think it will be great for businesses,” Karen Vargas Hatcher, owner of Planted True said.
City leaders say things aren’t set in stone.
“We’re going to find out what the probability is now when these feasibility studies come back,” Mayor Greg Brudnicki said. “They will tell us what type of restaurants, how many restaurants, how many hotels.”
Others say the plans may be headed in the wrong direction.
“Say Mr. Sonnenblick builds all of this and it turns out to be nice, but maybe after a couple years some of the things maybe don’t work out which we’ve seen in many other areas,” Jane Lindsey, owner of Elegant Endeavors Antique Emporium said. “So is there a plan for what’s going to happen at that point?”
Lindsey says adding outlet stores to the plan may harm existing downtown businesses.
“If we bring in outlet stores we will have all of these stores that sell that type of things have a difficult time staying in business,” Lindsey said.
The Panama City Commission will meet again Tuesday to hear from locals who didn’t get a chance to speak at the last public hearing.
By Byron Khalil | Posted: Tue 10:35 PM, Sep 19, 2017 | Updated: Tue 10:48 PM, Sep 19, 2017
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Despite new developments to the current plans for the marina project, some Panama City locals say they still are not pleased.
Project developer Bob Sonnenblick presented new plans with the changes he says the city commissioners have expressed to him and what locals have asked about.
Sonnenblick laid out his plans at city hall Tuesday evening in front of the community and commissioners.
He’s added triple the amount of green space, a boardwalk, a splash pad and a public fishing pier. He’s also tripled the number of benches and seating so people can enjoy the sunset by the marina.
The movie theater, water taxi terminal and hotels are still in place.
Some locals at the meeting praised the project saying it’s what the area needs for revitalization.
Others say the project could still use some fixing.
“That design is just nothing but glut. It’s like putting downtown Manhattan on the marina. It’s just a gross glut of buildings,” Frank DePinto, a vocal critic of the marina project said. “It’s blocking all the scenery and it’s destroying the marina.”
“Name a water front marina in the state of Florida that is not developed? You can’t. Now Bay County is one of the poorest counties in the state of Florida. Don’t we deserve a world class operation?” Larry T. Clemons, owner of Gallery 721 in downtown Panama City said, “Don’t we deserve a world class city and entertainment area for our children?”
Sonnenblick is working with Bellingham Marine. A representative from the company says they’ll be part of building more than 230 boat slips for the marina project.
Sonnenblick says these changes are still not set in stone. Panama City commissioners will discuss the marina project again at their next meeting on September 26th.
By KATIE LANDECK News Herald Reporter
Posted Aug 31, 2017 at 5:43 PMUpdated Aug 31, 2017 at 5:47 PM
A small park, a splash pad, and the promise of trying to recruit a grocery store have been added to the design to appeal to locals hesitant about losing space.
PANAMA CITY — The latest concept plan for the Downtown Panama City Marina, submitted by developer Bob Sonnenblick on Thursday afternoon, is meant to draw in locals and tourists to the massive revitalization project.
A small park, a splash pad and the promise of trying to recruit a grocery store have been added to the design to appeal to locals hesitant about losing space. Inside the public boardwalk that forms the perimeter of the project are retail, parking garages, apartments and two hotels that create a ring around much of the land portion of the project, and a relocated water taxi terminal required the boat ramp to be moved to West Beach Drive. The T-dock keeps the marina store and boardwalk but adds at least two restaurants, a lighthouse complex with a sea organ, and a commercial space with a use that is yet to be determined.
“The concept plan should be viewed as a whole, and not as individual separate uses,” Sonnenblick wrote in his letter to commissioners. “Without all the different uses working together the marina project (as a whole) will not be feasible.”
The proposal, due by Sept. 1, is the first major submission Sonnenblick and his team were required to make under the amended exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA). The goal is “to give the commission a formal opportunity to conceptually approve the use, massing and function of the improvements to be placed on the marina site, subject only to subsequent confirmation,” according to the ENA.
There will be at least two public hearings on the plan, and the commission can choose to conceptually approve the plan, approve with conditions, modify or deny the plan. However, to move forward with letters of intent and feasibility studies, Sonnenblick said he would “need” a favorable vote.
In his letter, Sonnenblick highlights how different pieces of the plan could become “assets” to the community, helping to buoy economic growth and tourism.
For example, he explains the 150,000 feet of retail space — one of the most controversial elements of the plan — could include local stores and fill community needs such as a long-hoped-for grocery store.
Our belief is that visitors will travel for an hour to a destination retail shopping district provided there are a variety of quality retail stores there,” Sonnenblick wrote, adding he expects gross sales revenues of more than $60 million. “Although visitors to Bay County will be attracted to this retail shopping district, it is our intention to also include local stores that would serve residents (who live in) the downtown area or nearby.”
He also wrote that in addition to the apartment spaces he proposed, which would be above the retail space and parking garages, the city should “explore providing incentive to entice other developers” to build downtown.
Feasibility studies still have to be completed to iron out the finances and logistics, but Sonnenblick said he believes the plan will be successful. He noted he believes the city’s infrastructure is adequate, including water, sewer and the road grid.
Sonnenblick has said he plans to be in town Sept. 11 for the first public meeting on the plan.
While the marina project was not on the agenda, it was the focus of the conversation during Tuesday’s commission meeting.
PANAMA CITY — Developer Bob Sonnenblick is expected to present the latest drafts of his plans to redevelop the Downtown Panama City Marina before the end of the month.
Under the exclusive negotiating agreement, the city set Sept. 1 as the goal for submitting the density for the project and as a juncture for the commission to give conceptual approval.
“Mr. Sonnenblick (is) to give to the city before Sept. 1 his desire as far as the density and site plan, and then the public hearings will occur in the first part of September,” said City Attorney Nevin Zimmerman. “I anticipate the submission coming relatively soon.”
Dates have not been set for the public hearings, but Zimmerman said the commission is considering Sept. 11 as a possible date. Two hearings are anticipated, according to the exclusive negotiating period.
While the marina project was not on the agenda, it was the focus of the conversation during Tuesday’s commission meeting. Ten speakers voiced support of the marina project during the public comment period, urging the commission to accept the conceptual plan.
“There comes a time in every politician’s life where you either cinch up your courage and do something significant or you kick the can down the road,” said attorney Alvin Peters. “And I think you are at that particular point.”
Locals express support for marina redevelopment project
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – “You know it wasn’t on the agenda and so many people from so many different organizations came out today and the lion’s share of them were for marina redevelopment,” Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki said.
A plan to liven up downtown Panama City by redeveloping the marina has been criticized by many. Some locals have expressed their concerns, but others supported the idea at Tuesday’s city commission meeting.
“Everybody’s doing all their lobbying, you know the devil’s in the details, we’ve still gotta go through and figure out number one, what’s feasible, what we can put on here and we know we’re not going to make everybody happy, but there was a tremendous amount of positive feedback today, to pursue the development,” Mayor Brudnicki said.
Roughly 20 people attended the meeting in support of the redevelopment, all of whom agree that something has to be done.
“There’s been a flight to the beach, a flight up 77, a flight up 231, everything has left the downtown [area] and it’s continued to happen for many, many years and so we do need to do something that’s going to be the spur, the catalyst, the thing that’s going to rejuvenate the downtown area,” Brudnicki said.
Representatives from the Bay County Chamber of Commerce say community support for the marina redevelopment project and for commissioners overall, will help advance Panama City.
“The point that we’re trying to get across is: let’s take a look at this plan, let’s adopt the plan, do the next public hearings and then the feasibility [study]. That feasibility study will tell us what will and will not work,” Bay County Chamber of Commerce President Carol Roberts said.
The project developer, Bob Sonnenblick, will be presenting a conceptual plan to commissioners next month, but financing the project is still a concern for some.
“You know we’ve got this asset, we just have to be mindful that we don’t put the burden on the taxpayers, but that we do something that everyone can benefit from,” Mayor Brudnicki said.
If the plan is approved, the developer is expected to start construction by January of 2019.
PRESS RELEASE- Bisnow Conferences Inc.
Orange County, California 7-17-2017
Bisnow Conferences Inc has chosen Los Angeles-based real estate developer Bob Sonnenblick, chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, to speak at their upcoming “O.C. Construction & Development Conference” to be held at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa on Tuesday July 25th at 8am.
The panel topic is: Opportunities and Challenges in the Evolving Real Estate & Construction Industries.
Bob Sonnenblick Moderator at HOTEL ROI taking place June 22, 2017 at the Indigo Hotel in Los Angeles
Press release: Download PRESS RELEASE-Hotel ROI conference
PRESS RELEASE: Los Angeles, Calif.:
Questex Conferences and Hotel Management Magazine are pleased to announce that Mr. Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Los Angeles-based Sonnenblick Development LLC, has been chosen to moderate the “Hotel Brands” panel at their upcoming Hotel ROI Conference on June 22nd in Downtown Los Angeles at The Indigo Hotel.
Join Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman, Sonnenblick Development
at HOTEL ROI: Los Angeles on June 22, 2017
Mr. Robert Sonnenblick, Principal of Sonnenblick Development, LLC, is a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania with more than 30 years of experience in various aspects of real estate development and real estate finance. Join Robert in the Brand Matters: Partnering for Profits panel.
Powered by Hotel Management and AAHOA, Hotel ROI is a series of regional one-day events, focused on how to leverage a hotel asset for maximum returns.The series is fresh, fast-paced, and built to give action to insights that can be implemented as soon as you return to the office.
Intelligent hotel operations should be your greatest 2017 investment. Hotel ROI: Los Angeles will walk you through how to successfully set your portfolio up for the greatest returns, all while networking with leading local owners, management companies, brands, developers, asset managers, and local planning and development officials.
“LA is one of the most popular cities in the country, with about 50 million visitors every year who collectively spend over $18 billion. Despite those numbers, however, there is still enormous capacity for growth, and the Hotel ROI Conference will show how LA’s hoteliers can take further advantage of that capacity and give profitability a major boost.” – Hitesh (HP) Patel, AAHOA Vice Chairman
This program is designed to be interactive with key take-aways crafted into a post-event brief on the following:
Market Snapshot: The tools you need to make smarter, fact-based business decisions
Local Intel: Hear what’s going on at the street level in Los Angeles and across the California hospitality industry
Maximizing Revenues: A “how-to” on savvy revenue management, OTA optimization, upselling opportunities and more
Minimizing Costs: Boost ROI through managing sales & marketing, salaries & wages, franchise fees, insurance, taxes, and FF&E reserves
Brand Matters: Brands share their value proposition
Heads in Beds: A focus on local and regional demand drivers and how to capitalize on them to drive sales
Exit strategies: How to best divest your asset when the time comes
Press Release: May 4, 2017-New York City,NY
NY-based conference producer iGlobal Forums Inc. has announced its selection of Los Angeles-based Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, to speak at their upcoming Real Estate Lending & Investment Summit on Wednesday May 17th at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. Mr Sonnenblick will speak on the topic of: Demystifying the Capital Stack, a discussion on Mezzanine Financing in today’s real estate marketplace.
After the initial session, Mr Sonnenblick will also lead a second panel on: The Borrower’s
Insights on the Mezz & Preferred Equity World.
For more information, please contact:
iGlobal Forum at 212-752-7760 or
PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Tuesday night, city officials and developer Robert Sonnenblick held a special meeting to reveal updated Marina Redesign Plans. Sonnenblick presented the public with a 3D model that provided a detailed showing of the revisions. The updated plans were designed and revealed after a string of special meetings to get public input.
“I’m excited about the marina project. I think having a lighthouse, restaurant, hotel, all of the things I’ve heard about it are really positive things,” said Little Mustard Seed Owner Greg Snow.
Snow has operated his business out of a shop off Harrison Avenue for two years. He, along with the commission, believe the revised plans will improve economic growth downtown.
“I’d really like to have some residents at the marina project, more people that will eat at our restaurants here, shop at our store, shop for a quick gift maybe on the way home,” said Snow.
“The mayor has said and all of us have said we want to unleash the potential of downtown Panama City, and this is the catalyst that can do that. This can bring Harrison Avenue to life,” said Panama City Commissioner Billy Rader.
Wayne Wright has been a Panama City resident for over thirty five years. He has followed the redesign plans every since they began years ago and remains hopeful that the project is actually moving forward.
“I think it would be beautiful now that they got the wheels in motion, if they can get it to go in the way that it’s supposed to go and everybody do their end of it,” said Wright.
Rader believes Sonnenblick has incorporated the components that citizens have emphasized the most.
“He can’t do everything that everybody he wants, but he’s going to do the best that he can and what his bank will allow him to do and what the commission will approve. Nothing has been approved. No contract has been signed. We need to be realistic about this,” said Rader.
The final plans for the redeveloped marina are due by late May. However, Sonnenblick is requesting an extension. The commission is assuring that more public meetings will be held before any plans are finalized.
Bob Sonnenblick, the marina project’s developer showed a 3D design at the meeting. Some at the meeting say they were pleased to see a more detailed plan for the marina space.
In the meeting Sonnenblick announced two new additions to the existing marina design. The first was a series of factory outlet stores spanning over 150,000 sq ft. He says they will be high end stores that offer discounted prices. Sonnenblick says that should bring more foot and car traffic through the downtown area.
Sonnenblick’s second announcement was his plan to build properties on Beach Drive near the marina. He proposed two high rise buildings, one rental and one residential building.
“I am concerned about the boat trailers and the people that live here that like to use our waterfront. This is part of the reason we live here,” Lesley Fontaine said. She lives in Panama City.
“Then he’s added this new idea of retail that sounds interesting. I’d like for the stores to be more exciting than just saying outlet stores, but still it sounds like they really are bringing in people,” Camila Jimmerson said. She’s also a Panama City local.
During the open comment portion of the meeting some locals expressed concerns about traffic along Harrison Avenue. They say the current street conditions cannot handle more cars on the roads than it already does currently.
Throughout the meeting Sonnenblick made it clear these designs are not final. He even pointed out several things that could be changed before the meeting ended.
Sonnenblick says all parts of the new marina will be built at the same time in one phase. He estimates the entire project will take two years to complete.
PANAMA CITY — Developer Bob Sonnenblick returned to Panama City on Tuesday night with big dreams and bigger promises for the marina redevelopment project, which now includes an outdoor outlet mall and white sand beach along East Beach Drive.
Saying he “would not leave” without answering everyone’s questions, Sonnenblick, along with his partners at Bellingham Marine, Florida Architects and GAC Construction held the floor for more than two hours, fielding questions, comments and concerns from the public, mainly focused on the boat ramp and potential parking.
It was the first time the developer has been in town since reviewing public comments regarding the project forwarded by the city. Many of those comments expressed concern that the project was becoming overcrowded and some residents were upset at the recent addition of outlet stores around the Marina Civic Center, particularly because they block access to the boat ramp.
“We will not build this project without boat ramps … and parking,” Sonnenblick told the audience, adding that the boat ramp, which he proposes to double in size, likely will be moved to the other side of the marina along East Beach Drive.
Also featuring heavily in the plans presented Tuesday were a pair of high-rise residential towers on property owned by George Kingston, who Sonnenblick referred to as a “partner.” The plans call for the relocation of East Beach Drive to accommodate the condos and a white sand beach across the road.
“This is going to be an amazing beach,” Sonnenblick said.
With the addition of the residential towers, Sonnenblick hinted a grocery store might be back on the table for the downtown area, declining to state names, but saying it was an entity which had an agreement several years ago that fell apart.
Tuesday’s meeting also saw the debut of Bellingham Marine, Sonnenblick’s replacement for Legendary Marine, to answer questions regarding the actual marina function of the project. Manager of Project Development Steve Ryder said the new marina will have 236 slips and accommodate boats up to 200 feet long.
Sonnenblick also promised to keep a fishing pier, as well as a lighthouse, which in models shown during the meeting was more of a glass tower-type structure with a stairway and observation deck. Parking would be confined to garages flanking Harrison Avenue on either side of the marina’s entrance, as well as under a sloped esplanade running down the middle of the marina where the marina’s green space currently is located. The 9/11 memorial also would be moved, likely in front of the Civic Center.
Sonnenblick said the price tag on the project will be close to $300 million and construction will take two years. The developer said phased construction “wouldn’t work” and would be done all at once.
Above all, Sonnenblick emphasized nothing is set in stone with regards to the marina, especially because the city has not officially selected him as the project’s developer. His exclusive negotiating agreement with the city expires in May and will need to be extended, he said, for him to be able to conduct the feasibility studies he needs to move forward.
“We’ve redesigned the marina,” he said. “It will work now. It will be a working marina that will last 30 years.”
Residents were skeptical but encouraging during public comment, with many expressing hesitancy about the scale of the project, but wishing Sonnenblick luck.
A date has not been set for the next meeting.
Bob Sonnenblick speaks at a Marina workshop meeting at Panama City City Hall on Tuesday.
PANAMA CITY — Developer Bob Sonnenblick will be back in town on Tuesday to answer questions and present changes to his vision for the downtown Marina redevelopment project.
Sonnenblick, who is an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city to try to win the project, was in town one month ago to show his designs. Since then, the city has forwarded comments and questions from dozens of citizens to him for review.
“We have carefully reviewed every single comment that was received from the community,” Sonnenblick said in an email. “We will address each one at the 4/25 meeting.”
The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
In conversations over the past month, Mayor Greg Brudnicki said he’s been pleased with the tone of the conversations with the developer.
“It’s been very positive,” he said.
Based on the most recent designs, residents have expressed concerns the project is overcrowded and in need of more green space and more panoramic views of the city’s waterfront. There was also consistent critique of a proposed movie theatre.
As a result, Sonnenblick said is team is making “design changes” this week to present at Tuesday’s meeting.
This will be the fourth version of the designs presented to the public since the exclusive negotiating period started last May, and officials such as the City Manager Jeff Brown have cautioned there will likely be many more. Past changes have included minimizing the “carnival area” and keeping the boat ramp.
The meeting is expected to also be attended by his partners Bellingham Marine, SMG Theatre, Marriot hotels and GAC construction.
People who still have questions are encouraged to submit them on the city website pcgov.org.
“He said he was going to address every single issue and wouldn’t have any problem,” said Brudnicki. “If there are any others left, please submit them ahead of time.”
Bisnow Conferences Inc has selected Los Angeles-based real
estate developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick
Development LLC, to moderate its “Unique Hotel Travel
Experiences” panel at their upcoming West Coast Hospitality
Conference on Friday April 21 in Downtown Los Angeles.
Venue: The LA Hotel- Downtown
Time: 9am to 6pm
California Grand Ballroom- 2nd floor
333 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071
For more information, please go to: www.bisnow.com
or call (202)-293-0370.
PANAMA CITY, Fla – The Panama City Marina has been the anchor for the downtown area since the 1950’s, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the city actually gained complete ownership of the facility from the state. That gave city officials the right to develop the marina, partnering with for-profit businesses. Some believe the right development could reverse a 40-year trend.
“How do we use the marina as a catalyst to build on to revitalize downtown? Because for the last 30 years, if you look at it, everything’s been a flight to the beach. There’s been a flight to 77, and downtown has continued to lose customers and lose business and it was time. So, when we got ownership, that gave us the ability to have public private ownerships on the property,” said Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki.
Last year, city commissioners hired Robert Sonnenblick, a Los Angeles developer with more than 30-years experience, and Peter Bos, a successful Destin businessman and developer, to envision the marina’s future. The new partnership, called NewCo LLC, has pitched what they call “rough” proposals.
Both Exhibit-A and Exhibit-B are similar, calling for hotel space, restaurants, entertainment or theaters, boat storage and service facilities, parking structures, apartments, and a major renovation of the marina civic center. Exhibit-B floats business names like Hilton and Marriott, Maguire’s Irish Pub, Jimmy Buffet spin-off’s Lulu’s and Landshark, and Bonefish Grill.
“It will spur people coming. If there are people coming, it will spur people to live downtown, and it will create jobs. We just want to make sure it’s done correctly and that whatever we do is beneficial to the public as a whole,” said Brudnicki.
“I’m not really keen on national themed chains,” said Panama City Commissioner John Kady.
Commissioner John Kady says he’s taking his cues from earlier public meetings, where residents told commissioners what they wanted at the marina.
“Those original guidelines – they’re very explicit. One – public access to the water, including boating and fishing, public and private entertainment venues for enjoyment, mixed retail, restaurant, office space, attractive and adequate parking facilities, civic activity space, connections to and elements of public art, an overall mix of projects that provide a substantial economic benefit to downtown, not just to this site,” said Kady.
“We asked to see restaurants on the marina. We asked to see a hotel. The civic center is, according to what we’ve talked about on our conference calls, an integral part of the deal. So, if you have people coming and staying at the hotel – going to upgraded shows at the civic center for the public – do you put a movie theater down there? There are some commissioners that say they don’t like that. I’ve talked to a lot of people that would love a movie theater downtown – that don’t want to go to Pier Park. Something for the locals,” said Brudnicki.
When commissioners cancelled Tuesday’s public meeting to hear the developer’s plans, criticized Kady decided to hold his own town hall, saying there’s not enough information available.
Brudnicki defends the decision.
“They weren’t ready. And I said, if you’re not ready, don’t come in here with some half-baked deal. We don’t want to see a piece of paper with scribbling on it. ‘We think we can do this. We know we can do this.’ We wanna see something – one – that we can eventually take to the public and say, guess what? They can deliver this. Do you want it?” said Brudnicki.
“This is being created for one purpose and that is that this will be the destination. It’s almost like they know they have a requirement to enhance the city so it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, of course this is gonna enhance the city.’ But it is intended to be a standalone,” said Kady.
“This is for, not only people that live downtown, but Bay County. This is for all over the region. But, if that doesn’t happen and we can’t do it, we’re going to exhaust all effort to make sure that we find out. Because we owe it to the public to unleash the potential of what we have downtown,” said Brudnicki.
Peter Bos stressed that anyone is yet to see his and Sonnenblick’s final marina development plan.
The public should get it’s first look on March 14th.
Posted Dec 28, 2016 at 4:45 PM
Updated Dec 28, 2016 at 4:45 PM
Panama City officials are expecting the new marina development, which moved into the planning stage this year, to be the catalyst the area has needed to move into a new era.
By Katie Landeck | 522-5114 | @PCNHKatieL | firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story ranked No. 4 in a News Herald editorial poll of 2016’s top stories. This series will continue through Jan. 1 and online at newsherald.com.
PANAMA CITY – Little by little, Panama City leaders have laid the groundwork this year for the revival of Panama City’s downtown.
Panama City officials are expecting the new marina development, which moved into the planning stage this year, to be the catalyst the area long has needed to advance into a new era.
“This (project) releases the potential of downtown,” Mayor Greg Brudnicki said in August after tentative design plans were first unveiled.
Riding the unrealized potential, nearly a half-dozen other projects were launched in 2016, ranging from the creation of apartments, to business investments, to other beautification efforts. Community leaders are hoping the domino effect of projects will build a “live, work, play” environment in the downtown, perhaps best summed up the Downtown Improvement Board (DIB) brand promise released this fall.
Their vision pledges to create “walkable community that provides urban loft living, authentic experiences and access to recreation” as well as places to work and a view of the bay.
A new look
All through the year, Panama City residents were offered a taste of what could come for the downtown as design plans trickled out.
In April, they received their first taste of the immediate future for the downtown when the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) released a video of the redesigned Harrison streetscape, with parallel parking, new landscaping, a roundabout and much wider sidewalks to accommodate outdoor shopping and dining.
While plans to start construction this year fell through, CRA Director Jared Jones said work will start next year. In the meantime, he and his staff are tweaking the designs, including looking at whether any palm trees will stay.
The biggest proposed changes, however, came in August when Sonnenblick Development released a proposal for $200 million worth of construction on the marina. The plans have since gone through several iterations as things have been deleted and added as part of an ongoing back and forth between the City Commission and developer.
The latest designs, released in late December, emphasize entertainment, fishing and cultural opportunities, and maintain the signature lighthouse first proposed. Construction is a ways away, but the plans should take a solid form in 2017.
The business side
The business side of the downtown saw a boost this year as store owners, quasi-government agencies and even the police departments started to change the culture.
For years local officials have said their needs downtown are living spaces and jobs, and those pieces finally started to fall into place. Several store owners turned the space above their business into apartments with instant success, and Jellyfish Health, a health-care technology company, moved into a larger downtown building on Oak Street – they already had a smaller presence on Harrison – with the promise to add 100 high-paying jobs in the next two years.
“These people have sort of jumped the gun to do it at a lesser cost,” Brudnicki said. “Once the marina is done and successful, the price is going to go up.”
Government spent the year working to bolster these efforts.
The police stepped up to more aggressively police vagrancy in the downtown at the request of business owners. Destination Panama City worked to market the shops – as well as the rest of the city – to outside markets, such as Atlanta, Baltimore and Nashville, Tennessee, even landing several restaurants in the pages of USA Today. The city bought the Trustmark Bank building in the heart of the downtown with promises to add foot traffic, vibrancy and more importantly parking.
And then the DIB, after a rocky summer marred by firing its executive director, resignations and a general lack of direction, the board found its footing this fall with an assist from Jennifer Vigil, CEO and president of Destination Panama City. The board found a path forward as the local marketers for the downtown, hired an event planning company to improve events, particularly a rebranded Friday Fest, and put forward a new marketing campaign renaming the downtown “Harrison.”
Yet to come
All of this planning, officials said, poises the downtown area for a strong 2017.
“We have made huge strides in getting Panama City on the map as a tourist destination,” Vigil said. “And our timing couldn’t be better as our city leaders announced an agreement this year to work with Sonnenblick Development LLC on the redevelopment of the Panama City Marina. We are laying the groundwork now to support this new multimillion-dollar investment in our community.”
The mayor put it even more simply.
“Good things are already happening,” Brudnicki said. “I anticipate more of that.”
Posted Dec 16, 2016 at 6:00 PM Updated Dec 17, 2016 at 11:50 AM
The new documents show the look of the project, dubbed MarinaVillage, has remained largely consistent with designs presented in August, emphasizing recreational activities to draw people in. Rough estimates indicate Panama City stands to make hundreds of millions from associated leases and taxes
By KATIE LANDECK
News Herald Reporter
PANAMA CITY – A clearer picture of the anticipated costs of the marina redevelopment and how the completed project might look have come into focus with the release of Sonnenblick Development’s financing proposal.
Documents received Thursday show the look of the project, dubbed MarinaVillage, has remained largely consistent with designs presented in August, emphasizing recreational activities to draw people in. And rough estimates indicate Panama City stands to make hundreds of millions from associated leases and taxes.
City officials cautioned the proposal is not a done deal, and they still are waiting on more information about the budget, timeline and other aspects of the proposal.
A tremendous amount of detail is yet to come,” City Attorney Nevin Zimmerman said Friday.
As it stands, some key changes to the design include the addition of a fishing pier, a boat sales and service area, a movie theater, a convention center and a possible apartment complex in “phase II.” A plan for dry boat storage and arcade have been deleted from the plans.
“I think it’s closer to what the commissioners want,” said City Manager Jeff Brown, who oversees the project. But, he cautioned, “this is not the end-all, be-all. This is the starting point.”
Comparing the August and December marina designs
What’s the same:
- The bulk of the marina still is being transformed into an outdoor play area similar to HarborVillage in Destin, with an amphitheater, outdoor marketplace, restaurants, lighthouse and water shuttle.
- There still will be about the same number of places to park a boat.
- Sonnenblick Development still is planning to pay to revamp the Marina Civic Center.
- There still are plans to add up to two parking garages near the entrance.
- The current Bay County government building still will be removed.
- A plan for dry boat storage has been removed. A boat service and sales area has been added in its place, as well as a potential 100-unit, nine-story apartment complex in Phase II. As part of these changes, the city attorney said there is talk of keeping the boat launch.
- A plan to use the old library building for hotel facilities space and the current City Hall as an arcade has been nixed. Instead, they are proposing two hotels – first, a 150-room Marriott, and then a 150-room Hilton in Phase II – and a movie theater and convention center.
- The “yacht club” has been renamed a “marina club.”
- A fishing pier has been added to the southeast corner of the T-dock.
A crew works on the T-dock at the Panama City Marina earlier this fall. ANDREW WARDLOW/NEWS HERALD FILE PHOTO
Posted Dec 15, 2016 at 6:53 PM
Panama City gets financial plans for marina
The financing proposal, delivered late Thursday, outlines what Sonnenblick Development believes is financially feasible for the project and offers to invest a substantial sum in the city, according to City Manager Jeff Brown.
By Katie Landeck | 522-5114 | @PCNHKatieL | email@example.com
PANAMA CITY – The developer for the Panama City Marina project has sent the project’s financing proposal to the city, meeting its deadline on the nose.
The financing proposal, delivered late Thursday, outlines what Sonnenblick Development believes is financially feasible for the project and offers to invest a substantial sum in the city, according to City Manager Jeff Brown. It also marks the beginning of serious negotiations between city leaders and developers about what will be built.
“We’ve been talking in generalities with Sonnenblick about things they want to do,” Brown said. “Now we’re at the point we’re looking at the business side, and the question is, ‘What can they do?'”
In this upcoming phase, it will become clear how much money the city will be expected to pay for the project, what the impact will be on existing infrastructure, what will happen with existing boat slip renters and what actually will be built.
The proposal was not made available to The News Herald late Thursday, as it was submitted after the city’s business hours.
Brown cautioned it will take the city weeks to fully analyze the proposal, emphasizing it’s not a done deal. The analysis will look at how the project could generate growth for the city, how it fits into the long-term vision for the downtown and whether it meets citizens’ needs.
The city commissioners plan to talk about the proposal at upcoming meetings and then hold a separate public workshop once they have a better understanding of the plans.
“Before we make a decision, before we vote on anything, we are going to bring it to the public,” Mayor Greg Brudnicki said. “We are going to say, ‘We think this is good; what do you think.’ ”
The financing proposal also will be made available on the city’s website, www.pcgov.org, under the section for public comments.
“We all feel it is important to get public input,” Commissioner John Kady said.
The original designs, which repeatedly have been called a rough draft, included a lighthouse, carnival area, dry boat storage, two hotels and much more. Many of the items, such as the dry boat storage, have faced scrutiny from commissioners.
Until the financing proposal is released, it’s unclear how the feedback from commissioners might have changed the design.
With the yes vote, the commission has given developer Bob Sonnenblick the go-ahead to begin feasibility studies that examine what types of businesses the marina would best support, including types of hotels and marina activity.
By KATIE LANDECK
News Herald Reporter
PANAMA CITY — In a 4-1 decision, the Panama City Commission voted Tuesday night to continue to work with Sonnenblick Development on the marina redevelopment, moving the project into a phase that opens the door to more public comment and starts feasibility studies.
“All this is is the next step forward,” Mayor Greg Brudnicki said.
With the yes vote, the commission has given developer Bob Sonnenblick the go-ahead to begin feasibility studies that examine what types of businesses the marina would best support, including types of hotels and marina activity. Sonnenblick previously has said he is planning to spend “several hundred thousand dollars” on studies.
He is expected to formally report back on his findings Dec. 15, as the commission voted to give him a one-month extension.
The sole no vote was from Commissioner John Kady, who made it clear he supports Sonnenblick and thinks he is “the guy” but voted no due to several concerns. He said his primary concern is that starting the feasibility study would be misguided until the commission gives unified input on the MarinaVillage proposal that Sonnenblick presented — with the help of Destin developer Peter Bos of Legendary Entity — during the commission’s August meeting. Kady felt that starting the studies without input was potentially a waste of money.
“I don’t want to set him loose to start working until he knows the consensus of the commission,” Kady said.
Other commissioners and two lawyers assured Kady that is not what was happening, pointing to Sonnenblick being given and incorporating feedback into the design. For example, a proposed dry boat storage facility already has been scratched and more public space has been added. Over Labor Day weekend, all of the commissioners provided Sonnenblick with feedback behind the scenes about what they liked and disliked about the plans.
Moving forward, Brudnicki said the commission will continue to provide feedback in real time, and Commissioner Billy Rader agreed with Kady’s request for more public meetings to discuss.
During Tuesday night’s packed meeting, the commission heard numerous public comments that ranged from a request to “stop it now” to people saying they “loved it.”
But as Commissioner Mike Nichols repeatedly has pointed out, nothing about the current plan is final.
“It’s pretty pictures. It’s not necessarily what you are going to do,” he said.
Kady also expressed concerns about Sonnenblick’s choice of Bos as a business partner, as the agreement shows Bos’ company, which has a complicated legal and financial history, as having a 20 percent stake in a new limited liability company that will be formed to work on the project.
City Attorney Nevin Zimmerman also worked to answer those questions.
While the legalese is complicated, essentially in the agreement Sonnenblick has set up his company as the managing entity, meaning he will be making all of the decisions and Panama City is only contracted with him.
Many more details are yet to be ironed out.
By KATIE LANDECK
News Herald Reporter
PANAMA CITY — Taking the next step forward with the marina redevelopment, the Panama City Commission will vote Tuesday on whether to continue to work with Sonnenblick Development.
During a 5 p.m. meeting, the commission will publicly go over the proposed plan for the redeveloped marina, called MarinaVillage, for the first time since developer Robert Sonnenblick, the principal of Sonnenblick, presented it in August. The current design, which can be amended as the project moves forward, calls for waterfront dining, boat storage, family-friendly activities and a lighthouse. Approval of that proposal is dependent on what the feasibility studies find.
The studies “will look at some of the bigger pieces of the things that have been proposed and make sure they are financially feasible,” said City Manager Jeff Brown. “If they’re not feasible, we’ll work to adjust.”
While the whole plan may be talked about, the commission is only voting on whether they want to continue to work with Sonnenblick, and by extension, his partner for this project, developer Peter Bos of Legendary Entity, who has a 20 percent stake. The commission is not voting to approve the designs.
“The vote is only to continue the process with the developer,” said Mayor Greg Brudnicki. “Our contract is with Sonnenblick. … He’s the main guy.”
A yes vote would give Sonnenblick the go-ahead to start working on feasibility studies and design work. Sonnenblick said he plans to spend several hundred thousand dollars in this next phase. Approval of that proposal also is dependent on what the feasibility studies find.
While the majority of commissioners gave the tentative designs a glowing review following the August meeting, Commissioner John Kady has been vocal about his reservations.
Instead of a “simple up and down vote,” he said he hopes to facilitate conversation about what commissioners and the public like and dislike about the proposed MarinaVillage to help guide the feasibility studies. “There has been a large outpouring of interest,” he said. “I hope we take the time to hear from each and everyone and have the opportunity to deliberate.”
Kady, for instance, has reservations about the “carnival” atmosphere that a games area in the center of the marina would create, worried it would be inconsistent with Panama City’s branding. He also has concerns about working with Legendary Entity, as the company has a “high risk,” with a low viability rating by financial consultants Dun & Bradstreet as well as ongoing lawsuits.
Kady had asked for a workshop prior to Tuesday’s meeting, but there was never “any consensus” among commissioners about having one, according to Brown.
Brudnicki said he prefers to wait to discuss the plans until after the feasibility studies, saying he “wanted to see what was feasible first” in order “to make sure if we put something out there, we can deliver it.”
The meeting will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 9 Harrison Ave.
PANAMA CITY, Fla. Panama City leaders finally took steps forward with the city marina project at Tuesday’s Commission meeting.
PANAMA CITY, Fla.
Panama City leaders finally took steps forward with the city marina project at Tuesday’s Commission meeting. The developer, Sonnenblick Development LLC, presented commissioners with a rough outline of what the marina might look like when the project is complete.
“I was never satisfied with anything that we had looked at in the past and I see something here that’s going to be attractive, that’s going to lure people to come to our marina,” said Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki.
At the commission meeting, Sonnenblick presented city leaders with businesses that are already interested in investing.
“Marriott Corporation has come back to us and said they absolutely love this project,” said Sonnenblick Development LLC President Robert Sonnenblick.
The hotel would be around 160 to 175 rooms, geared toward families.
“Marriott came back very positive for this property and that is kind of our anchor tenant, if you will, for the project and we’re very excited about that,” said Sonnenblick.
Plans also show a row of water front restaurants.
“Big patios, overlooking the water and a very exciting group that will draw people to this project,” said Sonnenblick.
There was also talk about a water taxi shuttle, multiple parking garages, retail, and converting the city hall building into a family entertainment center.
“This creates an ambiance downtown that can release the potential of the rest of downtown,” said Brudnicki.
“We’re excited to have you guys interested in our property. Panama City and the St. Andrews area are a great place,” said Panama City Commissioner Mike Nichols.
Although commissioners are excited about these plans, nothing Sonnenblick presented is concrete quite yet.
“This is nothing but a plan view with stuff on it. Preliminary, and so there’s plenty of time for input and changes and that sort of thing,” said Panama City Commissioner John Kady.
Sonnenblick will be presenting the commission with hard numbers and plans at their November meeting.
Panama City commissioners move forward with early plans for city marina project
By Larissa Scott | firstname.lastname@example.org
Incredibly compelling conversation about Westside hotel development and One Beverly Hills with Bob Sonnenblick from Sonnenblick Development at RENTV’s Aug 18th Westside of LA State of the Market Conference
PRESS RELEASE: Los Angeles, Calif. August 1, 2016
Hotel developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, has been chosen by RENTV/ RECG Conferences to moderate the L.A. Hotel Industry Update panel at the upcoming “Westside L.A. State of the Market” Conference on Thursday
August 18 at 8:30am at the DoubleTree Hotel in Culver City.
Westside Los Angeles State of the Market Conference
Westside Los Angeles State of the Market Conference
August 18, 2016
DoubleTree by Hilton LA Westside
6161 W. Centinela Ave.
Culver City, CA 90230
7:15 am Registration
7:30 am Breakfast
7:55 am – 12:00 pm Program
Industry leaders gather to discuss the State of the Commercial Real Estate markets throughout the
Westside of Los Angeles
7:55 AM RETAIL PANEL
Bob Champion, President, Champion Real Estate Company
Felix Gutnikov, Partner | EVP, Origination, Thorofare Capital
Alex Kozakov, Senior Vice President, CBRE | Capital Markets
Others to Be Announced
8:40 AM HOSPITALITY and ONE BEVERLY HILLS PANEL
Bob Sonnenblick, President, Sonnenblick Development
Jay Newman, Chief Operating Officer, Athens Development
9:15 AM MULTIFAMILY PANEL
Ken Kahan, Founder & President, California Landmark
Kitty Wallace, Senior Vice President, Colliers
Abraham Mehrian, President & Co-Founder, Strategic Legacy Investment Group
Henry Manoucheri, Chairman & CEO, Universe Holdings
Others to Be Announced
For more conference info, call 310-242-8613
Developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, to speak on Hotels 6-21-16: RENTV Greater LA Development Conference
Bob Sonnenblick, Principal, Sonnenblick Development
Greater Los Angeles Development Summit
DoubleTree by Hilton LA Westside
6161 W. Centinela Ave.
Culver City, CA 90230
7:15 am Registration
7:30 am Breakfast
7:55 am – 12:00 pm Program
Bringing together major players in commercial real estate development to discuss their projects
and how to get projects built in the Greater LA area.
Los Angeles-based hotel developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, has been chosen by Rent TV Conferences Inc. to speak at their upcoming Greater LA Development Conference on the status of the L.A. County hotel market. Mr Sonnenblick will also discuss the firm’s new $80 Million USC Hyatt House Hotel, being developed by Sonnenblick SC LLC on the USC Medical Center Campus.
Panama City commissioners approve negotiation agreement for possible marina project with with California-based Sonnenblick Holdings
Updated: Wed: 10:53 PM, MAY 11, 2016
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Some big changes could be coming to Downtown Panama City. On Wednesday, Panama City commissioners approved an agreement they believe will boost tourism in the city.
Improvements to the marina have been in the work’s for months, and now another new marina project could be on the horizon.
“The biggest things that are happening in North Florida from Pensacola to probably Jacksonville with this type of development and residential development is happening right here in Panama City,” said Commissioner John Kady.
Commissioners unanimously approved an exclusive agreement with California-based Sonnenblick Holdings at a specially called meeting.
If the plans move forward there’s a lot of exciting possibilities on the table for the marina including new hotels, hundreds of parking spots, new housing, a garage, and even a row of waterfront restaurants and shops.
“Whatever’s best to help revitalize,” said Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki. “We know that we need retail. We know that we need, you know, retail. We’d like to see retail downtown as far as on the marina, and a hotel, and more people living downtown.”
Over the next few months, Sonnenblick will develop a plan to overhaul the downtown Panama City Marina area. The agreement outlines several tentative ideas for development, such as thousands of square feet dedicated to retail and office space.
“We might be coming to you for two different hotels not just one and we are of the opinion that the more hotel rooms, the more tourism is generated for the downtown and will make the project that much bigger,” said Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Holdings.
Mayor Brudnicki says if the company meets its deadlines, the city could break ground within a year. Commissioners say they’re excited to work with a team with such a high level of expertise.
“I call it an all star team of guys that have experience. They’ve done this before in other markets and there’s no substitute for experience,” said Commissioner Billy Rader
Mayor Brudnicki says the city would have to do some things to prepare, like increase water and sewer capacity, but he says they’ll make sure they meet those goals.
See on WGHG TV
As developer Robert Sonnenblick outlined plans for the Panama City Marina project, city commissioners could not stop saying how “impressed” and “excited” they were.
By KATIE LANDECK
News Herald Reporter
Posted May 11, 2016 at 11:01 AM
Updated May 11, 2016 at 5:07 PM
PANAMA CITY — As developer Robert Sonnenblick outlined plans for the Panama City Marina project, city commissioners could not stop saying how “impressed” and “excited” they were.
“I’ve met numerous developers,” Commissioner Billy Rader said. “This an A-team of people that have been assembled. … They have experience. They have done this before.”
During a special meeting Wednesday, the commission entered in an agreement to negotiate exclusively with California-based Sonnenblick Development Inc. for one year. City manager Jeff Brown called the agreement a “giant step forward,” as it could signal the end of the city’s year-and-a-half-long quest to find the right developer.
Bob Sonnenblick Panelist – May 5th 2016 – FIBI Creative Financing Options for Commercial Real Estate
Bob Sonnenblick Panelist – May 5th 2016 – Los Angeles – For Investors By Investors (FIBI) Creative Financing Options for Commercial Real Estate
For Investors By Investors (FIBI) announces that Mr Robert Sonnenblick will be speaking at their upcoming real estate conference on May 5 in Downtown Los Angeles.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
120 South Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA
Topic: Creative Financing Options for Commercial Real Estate
How would you like to get equity financing that is long-term, fixed, non-recourse, and can be passed through to tenants, hotel guests, and even to the next owner!
We’ll also be talking about EB-5 financing in commercial real estate. Come learn and network with our panel of experts and attendees–your next business opportunity may be waiting for you.
Matthew Harrigan, Managing Director, PACE Equity (www.pace-equity.com)
Robert Sonnenblick, Principal of Sonnenblick, LLC (http://www.sonndev.com)
Michael G. Homeier, Esq., Founder, Homeier & Law, P.C. (http://homeierlaw.com)
Bob Sonnenblick Keynote Speaker at the 2016 Sacramento Commercial Real Estate State of the Market
Commercial Real Estate State of the Market
May 12, 2016
HYATT REGENCY SACRAMENTO
1209 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
7:15 am Registration
7:30 am Breakfast
7:55 am – 12:00 pm Program
Industry leaders gather to discuss the State of the Commercial Real Estate markets
Bob Sonnenblick, Principal, Sonnenblick Development
Rex Hime, President & CEO, Calif Business Properties Association
Bob Sonnenblick to moderate: Real Estate Financing Strategies panel at IMN Real Estate CFO Forum 5-10-2016
Press release: Los Angeles,
California April 22, 2016
NY-based IMN Conference Network has chosen Los Angeles-based real estate developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, to moderate the “Real Estate Financing Strategies’ panel at their upcoming Real Estate CFO Forum Conference, on May 10th at the St Regis Monarch Beach Hotel in Dana Point, California.
Bob Sonnenblick of Sonnenblick Development LLC has been added to the speaker list at the upcoming Bisnow Hotel Conference 2016
Real Estate developer Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Los Angeles-based Sonnenblick Development LLC has been added to the speaker list at the upcoming Bisnow Hotel Conference entitled BLIS-West (Bisnow Lodging & Innovation Series) to be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown L.A. on April 28th at 9am.
Press Release: March 1, 2016-New York City, N.Y. IMN Conferences has announced that Mr. Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Los Angeles-based Sonnenblick
Development LLC will moderate the 4pm CrowdFunding panel at their upcoming March 10th conference at the Marriott Downtown Hotel in NYC.
- Choosing the right platform for your deal
- How to make sure your project can be sold
- How much $$ can you raise?
- CMBS defaults
- Looking for bad actor partners
- Technology guys vs. real estate guys
- Portal senior management structure
- Interstate deals: What does it take for a New York company to go over the George Washington Bridge and do a deal in New Jersey?
- Biggest campaign killers
Crittenden Conferences Inc announced: Mr. Robert Sonnenblick, Sonnenblick Development LLC, to moderate the Hotel Development and Finance panel
Press Release: San Diego, Calif.-Feb.25, 2016
Crittenden Conferences Inc has announced that Mr. Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Los Angeles-based Sonnenblick Development LLC, has been chosen to moderate the Hotel Development and Finance panel at their upcoming Crittenden National Real Estate Conference in San Diego, California. The conference will be held at the Omni Hotel in Downtown San Diego.
Staff Writer Sacramento Business Journal
The 150-room hotel is a design-build project, so the general contractor is an integral partner in the planning. A permitting meeting is set for Monday with Sacramento County and the development team, said Bob Sonnenblick, principal of Sonnenblick Development LLC of Los Angeles, the developer of the hotel.
The hotel won approvals from Sacramento County in January last year, but Sonnenblickand his previous general contractor had a falling out, which delayed the project. Sonnenblick declined to name the previous general contractor.
Sundt is based in Tempe, Ariz., and it has nine offices in Arizona, California and Texas, including an office in South Natomas, just a few miles from the airport.
In the interim between its initial approval and now, Sonnenblick had a feasibility study done that found the hotel would do better with larger suites and more of them, so he added 15 rooms, including some as large as 650 square feet. Regular suites are about 450 square feet.
“We don’t want to be just a limited-service hotel. We want to get some higher-end clientele as well,” he said.
Construction will be a prevailing wage project and Sonnenblick has a handshake agreement to allow UNITE HERE Local 49, the hotel employees union, to represent the eventual hotel workers at the Hyatt Place, which could open in the summer of 2018. A groundbreaking is expected this summer, he said.
The airport would bring significant business to the hotel. Many flights out of Sacramento leave very early in the morning, so travelers from all over Northern California could use the hotel to arrive the night before traveling. Also, the hotel, like the airport, is right off Interstate 5, which can generate demand from auto travelers.
Another potential business for the hotel is air crew rooms. Many airlines have contracts that require them to house flight crews in nearby hotels.
Robert Sonnenblick in the news: Why new airport Hyatt is behind schedule – and why it’s getting bigger
Dec 4, 2015, 7:01am PST
The Hyatt Place hotel proposed for Sacramento International Airport will get more and larger rooms.
The 135-room project in January won approval from Sacramento County, which operates the airport. Developer Bob Sonnenblick recently won its approval to add 15 luxury suites to the property.
Sonnenblick, principal of Sonnenblick Development LLC of Los Angeles, said feasibility studies showed the hotel will do better with more rooms and the addition of the big suites.
The new design calls for 10 suites of 650 square feet, five junior suites and the original 135 suites, which are on average 450 square feet, he said. The five-story hotel will be wider, but not taller with the extra rooms.
Sonnenblick said he hopes to be under construction in the second quarter next year and then work through about 15 months of construction. That would put the opening of the new hotel in summer or fall of 2018.
Construction was to have started earlier this year, but Sonnenblick and his previous general contractor had a falling out on the project. Sonnenblick plans to name the new contractor later this month. Sonnenblick Development LLC will build, operate and own the hotel, which will be between the airport’s main commercial terminals. He said he has lined up construction financing.
The airport is a demand driver for the hotel. Many flights out of Sacramento leave very early in the morning, so travelers from all over Northern California could use the hotel to arrive the night before traveling. Also, the hotel, like the airport, is right off Interstate 5, which can generate demand from drivers. Another potential business for the hotel is air crew rooms. Many airlines have contracts that require them to house flight crews in nearby hotels.
Hyatt Place is a limited-service property. Locally, there are Hyatt Place properties in Davis, Rancho Cordova and Roseville.
Sacramento County has been seeking a hotel for more than a decade. The previous hotel at the airport, the Host Airport Hotel, was successful, but was demolished for the expansion of the airport’s new terminal and parking garage.
Nov 23, 2015 Patricia Kirk, Reporter
As the LA market continues to heat up across all sectors and with a fear of looming interest rate hikes, financing major developments has become a hot topic. For hotels, one of the hotter strategies is EB-5 funding.
San Francisco-based developer Sonnenblick’s principal, Bob Sonnenblick (pictured here with Athens Group COO Jay Newman), launched the discussion of hotel investment and development at Bisnow’s 3rd Annual LA Hospitality Boom event last week, discussing capitalization of an $80M hotel his company is developing on USC’s medical campus.
In financing the project, his firm put up 25% equity and secured a loan for 50% of the cost at 5% interest. But instead of filling the 25% equity gap with mezzanine money at 12% to 14%, his firm leveraged EB-5 funds at “an unbelievable 6%” rate, he says. “EB-5 money is a game changer,” Bob says. He noted EB-5 doesn’t work for everyone, as securing funding is a one-year process. “We had time to wait, because it took that long to get the project entitled,” Bob says. The program may not be available much longer; Congress is scheduled to consider a bill to limit it.Read more at BIZNOW
CaRE, USC Hyatt House Hotel EB-5 Project