DANA POINT – A surf museum near the water is among the features included in one developer’s proposal for a $200 million renovation planned to breathe life back into the 44-year-old Dana Point Harbor.
On May 4, county officials received proposals from two developers vying to head the decades-awaited renovation.
The project includes reconstruction of the commercial core, the east and west marinas, the Marina Inn Hotel and 52 guest slips. Under the proposed public-private partnership, a developer would design, fund and build the proposed improvements, then operate those portions of the harbor on a 50-year lease, before returning the property to the county.
The proposals will go before a county-selected evaluation committee made up of public and private-sector professionals familiar with coastal development and marine operations and experience with public/private partnerships. The committee will rank the development teams and recommend a primary and alternate proposal to the Board of Supervisors, said Jen Nentwig, county spokeswoman. If the recommendation is approved, negotiations on a lease contract will start.
Bob Mardian, who has operated the Wind & Sea Restaurant since 1972, said he and other harbor merchants have met with representatives from the two developers and that he is pleased with what he has heard from both.
Nentwig said she would not confirm the names of the developers until the conclusion of negotiations and execution of a contract, which could be in early 2018.
In their meetings with developers in recent months, harbor merchants and boaters have stressed the importance of preserving the harbor’s local character and feel, Mardian said.
“Both prospective developers are on track with keeping the harbor’s character and family atmosphere,” said Jim Miller, who has operated Coffee Importers for 37 years and is president of the Dana Point Harbor Merchant Association. “They are also committed to improving the harbor’s structure, water quality and parking.”
The harbor takes in $82 million a year and employs 1,200 people. It’s a destination not only for the local community but also for tourists from across the country. The town’s hotels market the harbor’s offerings, such as fishing, boating, recreation, shopping and dining, to draw vacationers to their more than 2,000 rooms.
“We’ve seen renderings and both say they will be guided by the idea of maintaining the small town intimacy,” Mardian said. “All of the merchants in the harbor are homegrown. A lot of these businesses are second generations.”
As a harbor merchant, Mardian said, he doesn’t want to pick favorites. But he’s also a founding member of the Surfing Heritage Museum, now in an industrial lot in San Clemente.