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Posted by Max Bottomtime on February 07, 2005 at 20:21:05:

Long-delayed Long Point project begins in RPV
Work crews prepare the former Marineland site for the construction of resort overlooking the ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes.
By Nick Green
Daily Breeze

A work crew that has been demolishing an old gas station at the entrance of the defunct Marineland theme park in the last few weeks is the first step toward construction of the $300 million Long Point resort.

"The launch of Long Point is major," said Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Larry Clark. "I'm pleased we're moving toward concrete evidence that the project is real."

It's certainly been a long time coming.

The city first approved a 400-room hotel on the 102-acre property that sits on coastal bluffs overlooking the ocean in 1990, three years after Marineland closed.

But those original plans were scrapped after the landowner filed for bankruptcy.

York Long Point Associates purchased the property for $28 million in 1995 and spent seven years getting city approval for the project.

Late last year the investment group quietly sold the property for an undisclosed sum to Lowe Enterprises, the Brentwood-based company whose Destination Development subsidiary will build the resort.

The move enabled Destination to secure two construction loans worth $225 million, documents show.

Long Point will include 550 hotel rooms, bungalows and casitas, 32 privately owned villas, a conference center, health spa, driving range and clubhouse.

When complete in 2007, the resort is expected to provide up to 700 full-time jobs and $5 million in annual municipal revenues.

"We've invested a substantial amount of our sales price in the project," said Jim York, while declining to name the amount the investment group that he heads received. "I think it's a good investment and I'm also planning to buy one of the condos when they go on the market."

Sales should begin in the next few months.

Project Director Keith Lamparter, who has 15 years experience building large resorts, said construction trailers should move onto the property in March. A sales and marketing trailer that will eventually have a mock-up of a typical hotel room will be installed in late May to early June.

"We'd like to be grading late this summer and then start real construction by the end of the year," Lamparter said.

The schedule is tentative though.

The city and state all have to approve various permits along the way. One of the project's biggest challenges is the strict level of regulatory oversight in California, Lamparter said.

As if to confirm that, work was halted on the gas station demolition when city officials discovered Destination had not secured the right paperwork to permit the removal of potentially contaminated soil caused by the gas station's old underground tanks. Work is expected to resume within two weeks.

Moreover, filming for two sequels to the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean," which was also shot at Long Point, is supposed to occur before the end of May.

However, safety concerns related to the impending demolition prompted city officials to deny the film company the necessary permits. An appeal is expected.

Given those sorts of delays to two relatively minor projects, Lamparter is reluctant to provide a hard and fast timetable for the complex construction. Those projects pale in comparison to ripping up the massive parking lots in an ecologically sensitive coastal area. That is expected to occur in phases.

"We really don't want to go out there and tear up 102 acres and have the sand and dust blowing," he said.

Lamparter also has to figure out the logistics of busing as many as 500 construction workers to the site.

"You only get to do this one time," he said of the construction. "We want to do it right."

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