Sonnenblick Development in the news
Sonnenblick Development in The Fresno Bee: Major theme park coming to Fresno? Big investor eyes $300 million in possible projects
Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias confirmed to The Bee that representatives with Sonnenblick Development visited the city earlier this year and made offers to purchase city property and develop other projects in downtown and along Highway 99 in south Fresno.
LeeAnn Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation, also confirmed Sonnenblick’s interest in Fresno.
Arias and Eager said the potential development investment could amount to $300 million and would be one of the single largest investments to diversify Fresno and the Central Valley’s economy in recent history.
“This represents not only an investment of about $300 million but the creation of an industry that has upward mobility, not minimum wage jobs,” Arias said. “It builds on diversifying our economy, where kids in high school can work there and become managers of hotels in the entertainment business. That’s why it’s so huge.”
Several factors make Fresno more appealing to investors, including the future High-Speed Rail station downtown, a dependable workforce, and the city’s sustainable water supply.
“The stars are aligning,” Eager said.
Just the first phase of potential projects would create upwards of 6,000 jobs, she said.
While rumors have swirled that Six Flags may relocate from Vallejo to Fresno, neither Arias nor Eager would confirm the amusement park was involved. The Bee reached out to Six Flags, and this story will be updated if there is a response. Sonnenblick declined to comment.
Bob Sonnenblick has an investment profile of $1.5 billion on the West Coast, and his company has led development on Los Angeles government buildings and luxury resorts alike. Sonnenblick has spoken publicly in the past about his work with Six Flags.
Sonnenblick already made an offer to buy the Selland Arena, creating stiff competition for the Fuego Football Club, which also hopes to buy the arena.
“Taxpayers should know that there’s a lot of good competition from people who want to invest in our city,” Arias said.
Sonnenblick Development in The Fresno Bee: Dyer: Dyer: Multi-million dollar theme park could bring ‘millions’ to Fresno each year
In a message to The Bee discussing the possibility of Fresno partnering to bring aboard a multi-million dollar amusement park, Dyer said the attraction could be built somewhere near Highway 99 or even in downtown Fresno.
Dyer confirmed that he and City Manager Thomas Esqueda have held numerous meetings with Robert Sonnenblick, the principal owner of the Los Angeles-based real estate development firm Sonnenblick Development, and his associates over the past few months.
“We have discussed several entertainment development opportunities near the 99 freeway as well as downtown Fresno,” Dyer said. “Not only have we rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Sonnenblick and those he represents, we have clearly demonstrated that Fresno is poised to serve as the entertainment hub for central California.”
An amusement park, indoor water park, and hotels could all be part of the potential project to make Fresno a central California attraction.
Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias and LeeAnn Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation, told The Bee that the potential development investment could amount to $300 million.
Dyer expressed optimism that a multi-million dollar amusement park in Fresno could happen and would be well received by the local community and beyond.
“Although I am prevented legally from discussing the details of the entertainment venue,” Dyer said, “it is safe to say it would attract millions of people annually to Fresno.”
Sonnenblick Development in the News: Is ‘Six Flags Over Fresno’ the Real Deal? Developer Looking for Site
A developer associated with the Six Flags theme park company says he has been scouting Central Valley locations.
Developer Robert Sonnenblick says Six Flags is “looking at sites” in Fresno and Clovis. There have been several meetings with officials from both cities over the past three months.
“Fresno County is strong enough to support an amusement park complex,” Sonnenblick tells GV Wire.
Sonnenblick’s Los Angeles-based development company is known for building luxury hotels, shopping malls, and office complexes across the country. His company recently expressed interest in purchasing Selland Arena from the city of Fresno.
Project Estimate of $300 Million
At a hotel building conference in March, Sonnenblick said his company is developing hotels at Six Flags properties in Los Angeles (Six Flags Magic Mountain is in Valencia), New York/New Jersey and Texas.
Speculation about a possible Fresno Six Flags project has been circulating for months. It was further amplified this week by a posting on a construction bidding website, seeking contractors for a project identified as a Six Flags Over Fresno Amusement Park. Dodge Data & Analytics values the listed project between $25-50 million for pre-design work.
Sonnenblick says the value of the entire project would be much higher.
He says between a hotel, retail space, amusement park and water park, the total investment would be $300 million.
“That would be one of our biggest,” said Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation.
Sonnenblick would not comment on whether a Fresno-area development would be brand new, or if Six Flags might relocate one of its existing parks. He would not reveal what sites in Fresno/Clovis are being looked at.
Last year, his company submitted a plan to build a Six Flags water park/hotel combination in Solano County, adjacent to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. Sonnenblick says that deal is now dead.
“Vallejo and Solano County screwed up that wonderful piece of land. It will sit empty for decades,” Sonnenblick said.
Dyer: Rolling Out “Red Carpet”
Mayor Jerry Dyer is optimistic about Six Flag’s prospects in Fresno.
“The City Manager and I have had numerous meetings with Mr. Sonneblick over the past few months and taken several of his associates on a tour of our city,” Dyer said in a statement to the media after initially being coy when asked by GV Wire.
Dyer speculated possible locations.
“We have discussed several entertainment development opportunities near the 99 freeway as well as downtown Fresno. Not only have we rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Sonneblick and those he represents, we have clearly demonstrated that Fresno is poised to serve as the entertainment hub for central California. Although I am prevented legally from discussing the details of the entertainment venue, it is safe to say it would attract millions of people annually to Fresno,” Dyer said.
Meeting with City Officials
Eager confirmed her agency is working with Sonnenblick. However, she would not confirm their meetings with city officials were related to a Six Flags project.
Officials from Clovis would not confirm meeting with Sonnenblick.
“Any preliminary meetings taking place between the city and potential business ventures are confidential and we can’t comment on them,” said Clovis spokesman Chad McCollum.
Sonnenblick Development in The Fresno Bee: Will an amusement park really come to Fresno? Here’s what to know
While nothing is set in stone, the potential of $300 million worth of projects would undoubtedly transform Fresno. Here’s what we know so far.
Is Six Flags coming to Fresno?
We don’t really know.
Mayor Jerry Dyer said he’s legally prevented from discussing details of the entertainment venue, meaning he likely signed a nondisclosure agreement. The Bee reached out to Six Flags for comment but never got a response.
But what we do know is this: Investor Bob Sonnenblick visited Fresno earlier this year and has met multiple times with Dyer, Councilmember Miguel Arias, and LeeAnn Eager, the CEO of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation.
Sonnenblick has spoken publicly about working with Six Flags on other projects. He builds resorts and hotels. Plus, Sonnenblick made an offer to the city to buy Selland Arena.
Arias told The Bee potential projects could include an amusement park, indoor water park, and revitalized arena.
Eager said Sonnenblick and his representatives are excited about Fresno.
“They said ‘Fresno on the precipice of being great,’” Eager said. “Of course, we always thought we were, but they said we would really love to get involved and help with development.”
Real Estate Conference l Speakers
We would like to introduce you to some of our 2021 conference speakers!
Bob Sonnenblick – Chairman, Sonnenblick Development LLC
Mark Fluent – Head of West Coast Real Estate, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.
David Eyzenberg – President, Eyzenberg & Company
David Moret – President, Highline Real Estate Capital
Donald Moses – Managing Director, Real Estate Private Credit, Arena Investors LP
Vic Clark – Senior Managing Director & Head of Conventional multifamily production, Lument
Randy Wynne – Director of Revenue Management, RE Carroll Management
Jason Miller – Chief Investment Officer, Grand Sakwa Properties
Gary Bechtel – Chief Executive Officer, Red Oak Financial
Arthur Nevid – Head of U.S. Loan Origination, Romspen Capital
Alison Coen – Managing Director, Barclays
Solomon Garber – Senior Vice President, Northeast Bank
Greg Schecher – Director, Archway Capital
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The future of Selland Arena could come down to three bidders.
Depending on what direction the Fresno City Council takes, the future of professional soccer hangs in the balance.
At its Thursday meeting, councilmembers will discuss the sale of the arena and surrounding land. The three listed companies on the agenda are Prosperous Terra, LLC (Ruelas, Inc.), owners of the Fresno Fuego professional soccer club; Sonnenblick Development, a Pacific Palisades firm; and USA Wrestling, the governing body for amateur wrestling.
The national office of USA Wrestling, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said they are not making the offer, but it is likely a related organization called California USA Wrestling, who made the bid.
California USA Wrestling did not respond to messages left by GV Wire.
A price for the arena has not been publicly revealed.
Developer Eyeing Fresno Market
Bob Sonnenblick, the principal of Sonnenblick Development, focuses on retail shopping centers, resort hotels, and government buildings. They have recently entered the arena business.
“Our plans are to own (Selland Arena) long term. We think it’s a great asset. That’s not the only asset we’re talking to the city about. We think that assets like that should not be under city ownership. Cities really don’t have the entrepreneurial background or experience in operating assets like that. They are better off being held in the private sector,” Sonnenblick said.
The city is looking at not only selling the arena, but the adjacent Valdez Hall and the parking lots that go with it. Sonnenblick said the area could use more parking and floated the idea of building another garage on the property.
Sonnenblick would not share what other city assets he is eyeing. But, he says prices in Los Angeles have him looking elsewhere.
“Prices in Los Angeles have gotten so stupid and so high that we decided to go to some secondary markets and we’ve identified Fresno as a tremendous growth area,” Sonnenblick said.
“Prices in Los Angeles have gotten so stupid and so high that we decided to go to some secondary markets and we’ve identified Fresno as a tremendous growth area.”
— Developer Bob Sonnenblick
Fuego: All or Nothing on Selland Arena
Fresno Fuego FC president Chris Wilson said it is Selland Arena or bust when it comes to the future of professional soccer in Fresno.
“The only way the business works for us is if we have all three facilities (Selland Arena, Valdez Hall and the parking lot) working hand in hand. If we don’t own the property or we don’t operate the property as a whole, the rental situation of land just doesn’t doesn’t pencil out,” Wilson said.
A few weeks ago, Fuego ownership made a public presentation during a city council meeting about their plans for Selland Arena. They plan to build a soccer-specific stadium in the parking lot, and use Selland and Valdez as youth sports and entertainment venues.
The Fuego would play in the USL, a pro soccer minor league. The team has been pitching the city on the Selland Arena project for seven months.
“We’re ready for the city to make a decision,” Wilson said.
The Fuego offer is the best, Wilson said.
“Our offer is more than just a purchase price. I mean, our offer is a commitment to the city to renovate and revitalize the Selland Arena property and to really build an entertainment hub for our community anchored by a brand new USL soccer stadium,” Wilson said.
Sonnenblick said he is willing to talk with the Fuego if he is the winning bidder. That doesn’t work for Wilson.
“We’ve seen what renting property looks like with Fresno. And it turns out not to work out,” Wilson said.
If Selland Arena falls through, the Fuego have a Plan B.
“We already have three other communities outside the city of Fresno that deeply, deeply want this project,” Wilson said.
One option could be using 45 acres owned by the team near Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County.
PRESS RELEASE: Monday March 29, 2021
UPDATED – SEE HIGHLIGHT VIDEO BELOW!
Hotels Magazine has announced that L.A.-based real estate developer Bob Sonnenblick has been added as a speaker on their keynote panel at the upcoming Hotel Opportunities Conference this Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami, Florida.
The panel topic is: Financing New Hotel Opportunities- Debt & Equity. It is the first major “live & in-person” hotel industry conference in over one year. For more info, go to www.HotelsMagazine.com
Los Angeles-based real estate developer Sonnenblick Development LLC has acquired The Monterey Park Government Center, an 86,000 square foot, 2-story office building, located just east of Downtown Los Angeles, on the I-60 Freeway in a $37.5 Million deal.
80% of the previously-vacant building was then simultaneously pre-leased to The Social Services Department of the County of Los Angeles for occupancy by three of its divisions: GAIN, IHSS (In Home Supportive Services), & MIE (Mgmt, Info & Evaluation). Renovation of the building will take approximately 9 months, and the space will be ready for occupancy by the 2nd quarter of 2022. The general contractor will be KPRS Construction, and the building architect is Langdon Wilson & Associates. The property sits on 4 acres and is located at 588 Atlas Avenue in Monterey Park.
Sonnenblick Development is one of Los Angeles’ largest developers of government-tenanted office buildings, with almost one million square feet of government space, housing tenants such as The Department of Homeland Security, The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, The FBI, The Dept. of Public Health, and The Social Security Administration, etc.
For more information, please go to: www.SonnDev.com
Bob Sonnenblick to moderate IMN Keynote panel: 2nd Annual Distressed Hotels Virtual Forum February 18, 2021
PRESS RELEASE: Monday February 15, 2021 Ny City, NY
IMN Conferences, Inc has announced that Los Angeles-based real estate developer, Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Resorts LLC, has been chosen to moderate their keynote panel at the upcoming 2nd annual Distressed Hotels Virtual Forum & Webinar on February 18th.
Mr. Sonnenblick’s panel is entitled “Domestic & Global Opportunities in Distressed Hotel Investments”, and it will feature fund-investors and money sources from around the world who finance and acquire distressed hotel deals. The panel will discuss the current and future state of the lodging industry, and the money that funds new hotel transactions.
For more info, please see: www.lMN.org
Domestic and Global Opportunities in Distressed Hotel Investment
- Globally, which markets are proving most resilient throughout the pandemic?
- Where are luxury hotel investments on the rise? Which investor groups are driving activity?
- How are institutional investors viewing offshore vs. domestic distressed hotel investment opportunities?
- How are global tourism rates trending, and how will this impact investment and development pipelines?
- How do you finance acquistions?
- Partnering with foreclosure banks and funds
- How long is the domestic hotel industry down turn?
- What hotel segments recover first? (Urban, Itd services, resorts)?
- Which markets are leading in new construction activity?
- What are the unique complexities and risks of cross-border distressed hotel transactions?
For more info, please see: www.IMN.org
Bob Sonnenblick – Chairman of Sonnenblick Development chosen by IMN Conferences Inc. to moderate the “Mezzanine Loan & Gap Financing for Real Estate Deals”
PRESS RELEASE: N.Y. Monday Nov 16th, 2020
Los Angeles-based real estate developer and investor, Bob Sonnenblick, the Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC., has been chosen by IMN Conferences Inc. to moderate the “Mezzanine Loan & Gap Financing for Real Estate Deals” panel at the upcoming IMN Real Estate Mezz & Distressed Debt Conference on Wednesday November 18th.
Mr. Sonnenblick’s panel will feature interviews and questions with five major national real estate lenders, who are still active today funding projects amidst the “mid-Covid” financial turmoil in the real estate markets.
Mezzanine Loan Origination Trends in an Uncertain Market Environment & Outlook for Gap Financing
- Which markets and sectors are most attractive/in need of mezzanine financing at the moment?
- How have terms and negotiations changed in the past 6 months?
- Is the market still saturated with too many debt funds originating mezzanine loans? How has the global health crisis impacted competition?
- Are we seeing banks starting to move back into the space?
- What are the outlooks for foreign investment and joint venture financing?
- What financing is available and favorable for distressed deals across different asset classes?
- How do terms compare to ground-up development deals?
ABOUT THE VIRTUAL EVENT
iGlobal Forum : The Future of CRE Lending Amidst COVID-19 virtual event, May 19th 2020, at 11am (EST).
How does the number of lenders in the market differ today from when you did your loan then? Are interest rates higher now as a result of the Pandemic/virus?
Has underwriting (by lenders) changed over the last 2-3 months?
Are lenders being more conservative now because of uncertainty in the market-place?
How will lenders size loans and predict cashflow over the next several years given the unknown trajectory of COVID-19
Which property types are likely to hold in best and which are likely to experience limited capital availability
This event is past – it was a very informative session – see highlights video:
ABOUT THE VIRTUAL EVENT
iGlobal Forum :The Future of Hospitality & Lodging Amidst Amidst Covid-19, May 7th 2020
Due to the circumstances that have stopped us from meeting face to face, iGlobal Live brings you an exclusive virtual event to discuss the various trends driving the hospitality and lodging industry.Bringing together the most active participants in the hospitality and lodging space, including institutional and private investors, REITs, investment companies, owners and operators, developers, lenders, brokers, franchisors and franchisees.
Key topics include:
- Pandemic – the Early Days or “Triage Strategies”
- Re-Opening and/or Re-launching hotels.
- Negotiating with Lenders or “Buying Time”.
- What if I want to sell: What’s the market?
- How are they pricing and what issues should I expect to have to deal with that are unique to this environment?
- What does this mean for development?
- Pandemic – The Recovery Days.
March 22, 2020 Joseph Pimentel, Bisnow Los Angeles
As cities across the state halt or prepare to stop commercial evictions to help businesses impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, some property owners and landlords are questioning if they will receive relief, too.
Last week, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and other cities either passed or are planning to pass some sort of temporary moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants, either because their business has been slowed down or it has been ordered to close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Late Sunday, the National Multifamily Housing Council, a lobbying group for the multifamily industry, urged its members to enact 90-day moratoriums on rent for tenants that can show they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, and asked for a 90-day halt on rent increases.
“We also recognize that most rental properties are owned by individuals and small businesses that have financial obligations, including mortgages, utilities, payroll, insurance and taxes,” the council said in a statement. “If residents cannot pay their full rent obligations because of the COVID-19 outbreak then owners are at risk of not meeting their own financial obligations. This puts the individual property and the larger community in which it is located at risk.”
Sonnenblick Development Chairman Bob Sonnenblick said any moratorium on evictions needs to be done bilaterally so that it benefits both tenants and landlords.
I understand [what the mayors are trying to do] but the problem is when every tenant in the entire city stops paying rent, and the landlords look to their lender and say, ‘I’m not allowed to evict this tenant, Mr. Lender can you please stop asking me to pay my mortgage?’ If the lender says no, as an owner, I’m in big trouble,” Sonnenblick said.
Sonnenblick, who owns office buildings in Los Angeles, isn’t personally affected, because most of his tenants are federal and local government agencies. However, as a building owner, he understands the plight owners and landlords go through if a tenant can’t pay rent.
“This is a two-part structure and solving only half the problem is going to create huge foreclosures when every tenant stops paying rent,” Sonnenblick said. “If the tenants stop paying rent and the owners can’t pay their mortgage, they’ll go into default and the banks are going to foreclose. You’re going to see mass foreclosures across the city.”
“Angelenos who own businesses in our city deserve peace of mind,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement Tuesday, adding that eligible tenants will have up to three months following the end of the local emergency period to repay any back due rent. “The moratorium will help ease some of the deepest concerns while we get through this crisis together.”
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed’s moratorium would prevent any small to midsized business that make less than $25M in annual gross receipts from being evicted. The eviction moratorium will be in effect for 30 days starting March 17, and can be extended for another 30 days.
The moratorium evictions on commercial tenants come on the heels of similar moratoriums by those cities to help residential tenants.
San Diego is also drafting an ordinance to halt residential and commercial evictions, which the council will vote on next week. At least 14 cities across the state are weighing similar eviction bans.
The moratorium comes at a time when businesses across the state such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, quick-serve restaurants, malls and office buildings have either closed or are opening at limited capacity to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As of Sunday afternoon, California had 1,500 positive coronavirus cases and 27 deaths, according to state health officials.
Under normal state law, municipalities are prohibited from regulating commercial evictions but given the current crisis, Newsom on Monday allowed for it after signing an executive order. But market stakeholders have several questions. Will building landlords, those who retail and office tenants pay, receive relief from banks or credit unions during the moratorium? Can landlords ask for partial rental payments during this period so that they can continue to operate?
Newsom’s executive order asks financial institutions holding home or commercial mortgages to implement a moratorium on foreclosures. It is unclear how cities could enforce that.
“For a lot of these things, the devil is going to be in the details,” Cox, Castle & Nicholson partner Corin Korenaga said. “What we’ve seen to this point are only announcements … Those announcements have just set up a general framework. We haven’t really seen the actual ordinances.”
Korenaga said it is still early, but he and his company have received calls from concerned landlords about this situation. One landlord called asking how he should respond after a commercial tenant told him he wasn’t going to pay rent. “Now, we’re seeing the ripple effects of this,” he said.
Korenaga said it is clear that the moratoriums are not deferring rent payments. “Tenants remain obligated to pay rent during the moratorium,” Korenaga said. “Landlords simply cannot evict during the moratorium.”
Landlords and property owners have questioned the mayors move especially since, so far, they are not seeing any relief. Though landlords agree that this is an unprecedented time and want to support their tenants, the moratoriums don’t relieve them of their duties to pay rent. Landlords also have to pay a mortgage and other workers servicing that building.
“Legally, the city can do it,” Rising Realty Partners CEO Chris Rising said of the moratoriums. “But this absolutely does not relieve a tenant from their rent obligation. They have a lease. The order doesn’t deal with a landlords ability to service their mortgage or pay people in the buildings to perform services if there are tenants who cannot pay rent. So there are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Rising, whose companies own and manage a $1.5B portfolio totaling 5M SF of commercial real estate in Southern California and Denver, said restaurants and bars in his buildings have been hit the hardest.
“I know some of them have been able to switch to takeout and delivery only, but they are not going to see the same amount of volume that they had before,” Rising said.
Sonnenblick Development Chairman Bob Sonnenblick said any moratorium on evictions needs to be done bilaterally so that it benefits both tenants and landlords.
I understand [what the mayors are trying to do] but the problem is when every tenant in the entire city stops paying rent, and the landlords look to their lender and say, ‘I’m not allowed to evict this tenant, Mr. Lender can you please stop asking me to pay my mortgage?’ If the lender says no, as an owner, I’m in big trouble,” Sonnenblick said.
Sonnenblick, who owns office buildings in Los Angeles, isn’t personally affected, because most of his tenants are federal and local government agencies. However, as a building owner, he understands the plight owners and landlords go through if a tenant can’t pay rent.
“This is a two-part structure and solving only half the problem is going to create huge foreclosures when every tenant stops paying rent,” Sonnenblick said. “If the tenants stop paying rent and the owners can’t pay their mortgage, they’ll go into default and the banks are going to foreclose. You’re going to see mass foreclosures across the city.”
For Rising, he understands what his tenants are going through and plans to support them, and April 1 is right around the corner. He plans to speak with his tenants and his lenders to see how they can work through this.
“Everyone is so universally affected,” Rising said. “This isn’t like the tech boom and bust. This is a national emergency. Everyone is talking about how this compares to post-9/11. But this is not like 9/11. We are in a time of war. But we’re going against this virus and doing things that have never been done.”
The prolonged lodging cycle, continuing consolidation, the rapid growth of home sharing and rising operating costs were among the key topics discussed by executives at the BITAC® Owners event earlier this week.
Taking place at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in The Bahamas, the executives spoke on a panel entitled “2020 Vision: What Lies Ahead For The Lodging Industry.”
Robert Sonnenblick, Chairman, Sonnenblick Development, LLC, sounded a note of caution when talking about the current economic cycle.
“I’m a great believer in cycles. If all of us are honest with ourselves cycles always have happened; we go up, we go down. This is the longest run of upcycle we’ve ever had and the longer the run the more apt we are to be facing that downward run and that actually scares me,” he said.
Roger Bloss, president, Alternative Hospitality, agreed while voicing concern about supply. “From a hoteliers standpoint I think we’ve pushed it as far as we can push it. I think we’ve put about as many rooms on some of those corners as we can. You look at these markets that five years ago everybody just wanted to be in and they went in and now there’s a lot of inventory,” he noted.
David Gould, president, hospitality division, Moody National Companies, offered a generally positive outlook but also expressed concern about the level of inventory.
“I think we still have some upside and opportunity for a little bit of rate growth, but eventually supply is going to catch up to us. The good news is the hoteliers of today have been through 2009 and we figured it out. We might have some rough spots but all in all we’re going to come out on the other side,” he noted.
Larry Broughton, CEO, Broughton Hotels, characterized it as “market by market” but also expressed a bit of optimism going forward. “I am bullish, I think we’re going to see another 12 months of modest RevPAR growth,” he stated.
Martin Thornros, principal, Convergent Services, observed some fundamental differences in the current cycle. “I think cycles are part of life, but this cycle we’re seeing lot of different and more selective development. We’re also seeing a lot more upper-upscale hotels as opposed to normally in this point in the cycle,” he said.
Meanwhile, a wave of merger and acquisition activity in recent years has dramatically altered the lodging landscape. According to the executives, there are a number of consequences that come along with that.
Sonnenblick expressed his concern.
“I actually think a lot of these consolidations are bad for our industry. Consolidation means less competition and to me less competition is always bad…When you get too big it’s hard to operate individual properties. Maybe that creates opportunities for people who buy from them but to me these big conglomerates are not good for our industry,” he commented.
Thornros, whose company provides IT solutions, brought to light another issue.
“I think it’s a huge issue with consolidation causing brand standards to be pushed through properties where it makes no sense at all and we’re seeing more and more of that,” he said.
Broughton acknowledged the perils of consolidation while also recognizing the potential opportunity. “The larger we get with a lot of this consolidation we’re going back to that era when it’s just bland product and that’s what scares me….I’m a little bit nervous about it but it does create opportunity. There are going to be the individual owners and investors who want personalized service so there’s going to be opportunity for the smaller management companies, I believe,” he said.
“I think the consolidation of the management companies is a benefit to us. When we’re smaller we’re more attractive to the general managers because they’re not just a number,” agreed Gould.
The executives acknowledged that the home sharing industry, particularly companies such as Airbnb, have impacted traditional hotels to varying degrees.
Sonnenblick, for his part, believes the impact has been minimal.
“This is going to sound funny, and this is probably the opposite of what everybody reads in the newspapers, but Airbnb to me is a very minor percentage of our mainstream industry. It’s far less than 10 percent,” he said.
Bloss, however, commented, “I think it’s bigger than anybody realizes.”
He continued, “you’ve got the big brands like Marriott going in so you know it’s going to have all the things we’re accustomed to and it’s not going away,” he asserted.
Broughton cited development as another area of concern pointing out that rules often change in municipalities as it relates to home sharing.
“What scares me about the whole home sharing thing is how I see developers that are trying to take an apartment building and ‘Airbnb it.’ We’ve been approached dozens of times to do that and I try to talk them out of it,” he noted.
In addition, labor costs continue to be a constant challenge for owners and operators, particularly in the wake of minimum wage increases in a number of states.
“I may be hypersensitive being in California, but the labor costs are ridiculous. When you’re paying dishwashers 20 bucks an hour what does the rest of your pay scale look like? When you’re looking at a 45 percent labor cost you’re economics change so you better be able to drive RevPAR,” said Broughton.
However, the panelists went on to point out that labor is just one cost challenge for properties.
“The biggest cost is when it’s time to renovate and the extent to which you have to renovate. That’s what usually hits us the hardest, but at the same time you also have brands coming up with different things you need to implement. For example, ‘now we have a new lobby so you have to do the new lobby by 2020’ even though it’s out of cycle,” said Gould.
Energy costs, particularly in California, also represent a significant expense, according to the panelists.
Bloss talked about his current project in Desert Hot Springs specifically.
“We went to the extreme in California to build wells, solar, and turbine. The only way we can really see ourselves sustaining these costs long term is to put money in on the front end… They’ve [California] already shut the power and they’ve shut the water off in the past, I need both of those things to survive,” he said, adding the company spent some 17 million dollars to drill the well.
Broughton added of the energy costs, “those are things we see month after month. It’s monthly operating costs that can just suck the value out of a property.”
Sonnenblick asserted that the aforementioned operating costs are part of why limited-service options are appealing to more and more owners.
“Ninety-five percent of the new builds in the hotel business are limited service so instead of having 40 employees we have four. Even when labor goes crazy it may not affect us,” he noted.
IMN Conferences Inc has announced that Los Angeles-based real estate developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, has joined their keynote Finance Panel to speak at the upcoming Real Estate & Mezzanine Debt Conference to be held in New York City on November 7th at The Union League Club on East 37th Street.
- Where are the opportunities for the year ahead? Which markets and what deal types are you pursuing?
- What is the availability of capital (both debt and equity) in the current market?
- Who is financing your deals? Banks, insurance companies, CMBS, debt funds or other specialty finance companies?
- What projects are you looking to finance with mezzanine and other subordinated debt?
- What market factors are keeping you up at night?
IMN Real Estate Conferences Inc. has announced that Los Angeles-based real estate developer Bob Sonnenblick, Chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, has been chosen to speak on the keynote panel at their upcoming Hotel Construction and Development Conference on October 28th at The Miramar Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica, California. Mr Sonnenblick will be joined on the panel by senior executives from Kimpton Hotels & Margaritaville Hotels.
3:30 PM Revenue-Driving Trends in Architecture & Design
- What are the efficiencies and challenges in bringing supertall developments to market in Southern
- California? How can this positively or negatively impact the guest experience?
- What goes Into the alternative material and construction process decision?
- What steps have you taken to create a more efficient, flexible, and cohabitation-friendly environment for living and working? Where have you seen or applied this concept in practice, and how has this new concept been received by guests?
- How do you balance cost-effective architecture with an enhanced guest experience? How does lighting design
play a role in the guest experience?
- What Is your definition of efficient design?
- Where have you seen brand integration succeed or fail within an architectural design?
- What do you consider top renovation ideas that will help your hotel stand out and increase revenue?
August 26, 2019 Joseph Pimentel, Bisnow Los Angeles
Growing up as a scion from a highly regarded real estate family, Bob Sonnenblick had no interest in working in the family business.
Sonnenblick’s great-grandfather, Alexander Sonnenblick, founded Sonnenblick Goldman Corp. in New York in 1893. The company specialized in providing financing for real estate projects.
His grandfather, Nathan Sonnenblick, was the chairman of Sonnenblick Goldman, and was described by The New York Times as one of the nation’s foremost mortgage brokers.
His father, Jack Sonnenblick, succeeded his father as chairman of Sonnenblick Goldman, served as a trustee of the New York Bank for Savings, and founded North American Mortgage Investors.
His uncle, Arthur Sonnenblick, is the senior managing director at Cushman & Wakefield Equity, Debt & Structured Finance — formerly Cushman & Wakefield Sonnenblick Goldman. He sits on the board of trustees of Vornado.
Sonnenblick said growing up, his father never pushed him to go into real estate.
“He told me, ‘Go to business school and just learn about business,’” Sonnenblick told Bisnow. “He never forced me.”
It wasn’t until his senior year at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania when a real estate mogul gave a presentation in front of his class that his interest in commercial real estate arose.
“Donald Trump Sr. walked into our class and started telling us about all of these wild and crazy deals he was doing,” Sonnenblick said. “It really got me very interested in the real estate business. Once I graduated, my dad welcomed me into the business.”
In his 35-year career, Sonnenblick has completed more than $1.5B of commercial real estate transactions and has developed several big office and hotel projects on the East Coast, in Florida and in California.
When asked if his kids will eventually follow in his footsteps and keep the family legacy going, Sonnenblick leaves it up to them.
“My dad never forced me,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing with my kids as well. I think that’s the right way to do things.”
Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?
Sonnenblick: My favorite part of my job, which is developing big office buildings, is taking a vacant piece of land and designing and master planning the entire project. It’s very creative. I sit down with the architects. I love the creative part of designing a beautiful new building from a vacant piece of dirt.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
Sonnenblick: To be honest with you, this is the only job I’ve really ever had. But as a kid in high school, I used to clean swimming pools in Beverly Hills. It was horrible. The pools were large and the customers were very finicky and difficult to work with.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
Sonneblick: A farmer. At my house in Los Angeles, I have about 150 fruit trees, all different kinds — oranges, lemons, blueberries, raspberries. When I get home from work, all weekend long, I spend most of time in my backyard. I get a lot of pleasure from it. So I would be a fruit tree farmer.
Bisnow: What deal are you proudest of?
Sonnenblick: Easy one for me. I own the LA headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a 500K SF office building in Norwalk. Of all the deals I’ve done in my career, that was clearly the most difficult. Yet in spite of all the obstacles, we got it done. It will forever be my favorite and proudest project in my entire career.
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
Sonnenblick: My biggest failure was a hotel project that we were working on on the campus of the USC Medical Center. It exploded at the eleventh hour because USC was so difficult to deal with. I learned a lesson that I will never deal with an institution like USC again. They are just too difficult to work with and that deal was a failure as a result.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Sonnenblick: The morals and business ethics of our industry have dropped precipitously the last couple of years. I don’t know if that’s the function of our president or just a general comment about our society today. That is absolutely my biggest pet peeve. In the old days, we used to be able to do business with a handshake. That is no longer the case in today’s world.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
Sonnenblick: My polo ponies and playing polo in general. It’s a very expensive sport but it’s a game and a passion that I truly love. But it’s very much an extravagance. But I can’t help it. I’m addicted to it.
Bisnow: What motivates you?
Sonnenblick: Previously, it was money and creation of wealth. But that is no longer the case. Now I build these buildings to create a portfolio and a legacy. It’s not the financial benefit anymore. It’s just to create a legacy and to grow the portfolio.
Bisnow: What advice do you wish you got when you started in CRE?
Sonnenblick: I wish instead of building office buildings and hotels that someone would have told me 30 years ago to get into the apartment development business. Because that business is much easier than the road I took.
Bisnow: What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?
Sonnenblick: I am very risk-averse. But if I had to think of one thing, it probably would have been that crazy USC hotel deal. That was the biggest risk and it was an absolute failure as a result of our poor relationship.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
Sonnenblick: Right now, the main thing that keeps me up at night and my biggest worry is that we are absolutely in the peak of the economy and the real estate market. The last time I felt this way was in 2008. There was a six-year downturn that followed. We were at the peak then and that downturn was an ugly period for almost everybody in our entire industry.
Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit?
Sonnenblick: I love St. Bart’s in the Caribbean. It’s just a fabulous place to get away, turn off the phone and the internet, and just enjoy life on the beach.
Bisnow: Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?
Sonnenblick: Family. I have gotten very lucky. I have been married for almost 30 years. I have a great wife and great kids. I am spending more and more time with family as a result.
Bisnow: What CRE trend do you think will have the most impact over the next few years?
Sonnenblick: I think the biggest current trend that will have the most impact on CRE is the upcoming disappearance of the Chinese investors in commercial real estate. A lot of the Chinese money is being called back to China by the Chinese government. As a result, all the EB-5 deals and Chinese-backed funded deals are going to implode. I think that will have a huge negative impact on real estate prices very soon.
Bisnow: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Sonnenblick: I’m a very open person so I don’t know. All of my friends and business associates know my story. There really [aren’t] a lot of surprises.
Bisnow: What do you want your legacy to be?
Sonnenblick: I’m the fourth generation of a family in real estate that began in 1893. This is our 126th year in the commercial real estate business. If I want to be known for anything, I want people to know that I was always a very honest and straightforward businessman. I’m very open. I didn’t have any hidden agendas.
I’m unfortunately a dying breed. I’m very old school. I don’t think you’ll see a lot of old school, honest businessmen in the future in our industry, unfortunately.
I just want to be known as a very honest, straightforward guy who people enjoyed dealing with.
While DTLA’s hospitality revolution has been remarkable, more innovation and hotel development is crucial, say panellists at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles
The manner in which downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) has changed the game for hotels in LA has been nothing short of spectacular.
With more than 10,000 hotels rooms dominated by branded and independent, full-service and boutique hotels, this phenomenon is worth paying attention to.
Despite pressure from home-sharing services and an influx of new hotel rooms, the Greater Los Angeles region is poised to remain among the top-performing U.S. hotel markets, according to CBRE Hotels Americas Research Group.
Factors driving the trends
At the panel discussion titled “Ultimate Game-Changer? Downtown LA’s Hospitality Revolution” at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles, Bruce Baltin, Managing Director, CBRE Hotels said DTLA had been changed for the better by hotels.
“Currently, occupancy is at around 78%, where as it was at 68% before 2010,” Baltin said, “There is certainly more opportunity for leisure and boutique hotels, as evidenced by Ace and NoMad hotels.”
However, the LA hospitality stalwart foresaw a “blip in 2021 with a potential 1.4% decrease in RevPAR.”
Christopher M. Henry, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Majestic Hospitality Group, feared that LA stood the risk of losing business to other, more vibrant cities given the challenges of having several historical buildings with complicated planning permissions.
Also, the limited space in DTLA is constantly being chased by condo & residential developers alike, making hotel development all the more challenging.
“To me, soft brands is the way to go, especially those which explore the co-living and co-working trend,” Henry told the panel.
What is particularly promising is seeing higher occupancy rates in DTLA over the weekends, said Benjamin Young, Vice President of Asset Management, AEG.
“One needs capital and patience for hotel development in DTLA as building and operation costs are high,” he added, “Be patient as it’s a tough market.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, Luke Bujarski, Founder & CEO, LUFT, who moderated the panel, cited the exploding, almost prohibitive costs of hotel development in DTLA.
Bob Sonnenblick, Principal, Sonnenblick Development, agreed there was a drop-off in new hotel projects in DTLA and also a corresponding decrease in interest rates.
“The biggest challenge for the hospitality industry in DTLA will be to find new brands and cool, hip hotels to bring in revenue,” he added.
According to the TOPHOTELCONSTRUCTION online database 41 hotel projects are currently in the pipeline in Los Angeles:
LA architecture “disappointing” compared to San Francisco, Seattle: Robert Sonnenblick
by Rahul Venkit | Jul 21, 2019 | Experts
Robert Sonnenblick lives and breathes LA. This Wharton graduate has more than 30 years of experience in various aspects of real estate and real estate finance in the region.
Prior to forming Sonnenblick Development, he was the senior partner in a Los Angeles-based real estate development firm (Sonnenblick Del Rio Development) which specialized in public-private partnerships throughout the LA basin.
On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles, Sonnenblick spoke to TOPHOTELNEWS on the influx of foreign-funded construction in LA, how mass transit from LAX airport is poised to boost tourism, and how limited-service hotels is where the most profitability is.
“Dramatic” influx of foreign capital in LA
Sonnenblick: The change has been dramatic especially in the last four or five years. And it’s interesting: it’s all been foreign capital, largely from China and a little bit from India as well. Whereas historically, everything that you see built has been locals doing it. That’s totally changed in the last four years.
LA skyline deserves awesome architecture like San Francisco & Seattle
Sonnenblick: I am a huge fan of Los Angeles, you know that, but I must tell you very honestly: I’m disappointed in our architecture. If you look at the skyline, you mentioned San Francisco, for example, San Francisco, the city mandates that you must — you must — do something interesting with your building. No more regular rectangles, that just doesn’t work. They won’t approve your project if you do that.
Here, we just do regular, everyday, blase – unfortunately – buildings and when you look at the skyline, although it’s a large and successful skyline, architecturally, very honestly, compared to cities like Seattle, like San Francisco, we are trailing very badly. And that’s very unfortunate because we’ve got an opportunity to really make a difference — and we’re not.
LAX mass transit will further boost tourism
Sonnenblick: At LAX, there’s $8 billion worth of new construction going on between the rental car facility and the monorail and things like that. But there’s one other key thing that leads me to be very optimistic about the future.
For the first time in a hundred years, they are tying LAX in to mass transit. So that instead of somebody having to take a taxi or Uber down there, you can now, or you will be soon, able to just get on mass transit and go to anywhere else in the city. I think the lack of that has really been holding us back for many decades so this is good news. LAX is one of the really, or the future of LAX, is one of the really good points of this city.
Limited-service hotels is where the most profitability is
Sonnenblick: For the first 25 years of my career in the hospitality business, all we focused on were high-end, four-star luxury hotels. My partners and I built the Loews Hotel at the beach here in Santa Monica, a four-star hotel. But to be honest with you, the real money in our business, and again, I discovered this very late, better late than never, but I discovered it late, when you build select service and limited service, that’s where the real profitability of the industry is.
And as a result, if you look at the last 10 years, probably 95% of the new hotels that have been built across the United States, are limited service and select service. And again, being honest, I discovered that too late. We’re into it now, I wish I had discovered this 15 years ago. But that’s where the real profitability, and future of the industry is.
Thoughts on the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR
Sonnenblick: Oh, I think this is fantastic. It gives everybody a chance to really network. And it’s not like it’s all developers — it’s developers and architects and brokers and contractors and things like that. It’s a great opportunity for everybody to get together and just talk. And not just people from L.A., even though this conference is L.A.-based, it’s people from all over the country and even the world. It’s fun to meet people and I enjoy that very much.
Robert Sonnenblick was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles 2019. To attend, address or sponsor our boutique hospitality networking events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS Head of Global Events & Conferences
Kayley van der Velde.
Boutique Hotel Project on Greater Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip Expects September Opening
The owners of the upscale West Hollywood Edition Hotel and Residences in greater Los Angeles have secured a $300 million, floating-rate loan just months ahead of the boutique property’s anticipated grand opening in September, when it will join several competing developments on the famous Sunset Strip.
Global commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank arranged the refinancing on behalf of the owner, a partnership between New York developer Witkoff and Miami investment company New Valley. The loan was provided by investment bank and financial services company Deutsche Bank and stock brokerage and investment banking Mirae Asset Daewoo in South Korea.
The 190-room hotel with 20 luxury condos is under construction at 9040 Sunset Blvd., in West Hollywood, a tony city between Hollywood and Beverly Hills in the heart of metropolitan Los Angeles,
The developers said they opted to refinance to retire a construction loan following the completion of the project this year.Edition Hotels is a brand by hotelier and real estate developer Ian Schrager, who was also the co-founder of New York’s famed Studio 54 nightclub, in partnership with Marriott International. The West Hollywood property will feature a rooftop pool, a fitness center and spa, and views from downtown to the Pacific Ocean.
“The world-class hotel and condo development represents a truly one-of-a-kind experience for visitors and tenants,” Dustin Stolly, vice chairman and co-head of debt and structured finance at Newmark Knight Frank, said in a statement.
The development is among several new projects headed to the Sunset Strip, an indication of the strong demand and high prices the coveted West Hollywood market can dictate. Among other projects are actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s Arts Club, a London-based social club and hotel development, and the proposed $300 million 8150 Sunset Blvd. commercial-residential project that could replace a retail center with a landmark Lytton Savings bank.
Sales prices for hotels in the area are among top in the county. For instance, 1 Hotel West Hollywood, formerly known as the Jeremy West Hollywood Hotel, at 8490 W. Sunset Blvd., sold for $283 million, or $989,510 per room, in 2017, according to CoStar data.
With so much similar development proposed or underway, the project could face ample competition. It may also open up to a slowing economy that could push down nightly rates as U.S. economic growth nears a record 10-year streak that many analysts expect to cool in coming years.
But Bob Sonnenblick, chairman at L.A. development firm Sonnenblick LLC, who has toured part of the West Hollywood Edition project, said the “breathtaking” views from some of the units are part of the reason he thinks it could do well.
“With L.A. having the best year ever in terms of hotel tourism combined with the low-interest rates on loans, it ensures the success of the project long term,” Sonnenblick said. “It’s a fabulous combination.”
Last year was the eighth consecutive year of record tourism for Los Angeles with 50 million visitors on record, according to the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
The project, designed by architectural designer John Pawson and architectural firm HKS Architects, also has more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space and approximately 16,500 square feet of hotel terrace space that could draw in additional crowds.
For the Record: The Newmark Knight Frank team was led by Dustin Stolly and Jordan
Roeschlaub, vice chairmen and co-heads of debt and structured finance, along with Nick Scribani and Chris Kramer, managing directors at NKF.
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.