Auction Post Mortem With Steve Craig
THE BEST LAID PLANS...
All my great plans to post info on this blog simultaneously with the auction as it progressed got blown to smithereens because of my technological dyslexia! I had the darn webcast all set to go - even heard some extraneous jabber before 10 as they got set up - then my browser dozed off and before I could slap it awake again the first part, the opening of the bids, had been completed. Drat!
VIEW THE AUCTION - DON'T BLINK
I did, however, see the actual auction. I may be one of the few who did because if you blinked you'd have missed it. If you want to see both minutes of it you can go to the DGS archives, HERE, to view it.
Tom Johnson over at the Daily Voice did a terrific job of timely reporting from the site. You can read his coverage HERE. As he first reported, the opening bids were as follows:
Bid No. 1: Costa Mesa and County of Orange: $6.5 million
Bid No. 2: Advanced Real Estate Services: $17 million
Bid No. 3: Tel-Phil Enterprises : $1,000
Bid No. 4: Facilities Management West: $55 million
Bid No. 5: Anaheim Sports Holding : $20 million
Bid No. 6: Craig Realty Group ($42.5 million)
Bid No. 7: Forde and Mollrich: $2 million
That bid by Jeff Teller of Tel-Phil Enterprises was obviously a protest bid, but it made me chuckle, nonetheless.
Following a short break the actual auction began. Using the high bid of $55 million as the starting point, the moderator invited bids in $500,000 increments. Craig Realty Group bid $55.5 million. Then Advanced Real Estate Services bumped it to $56 million. Finally, in what would be the winning bid, Craig kicked it to $56.5 million, even though the moderator desperately looked around the room for yet another bid.
CRAIG IS THE WINNER
So, the deed is done and Craig Realty Group - an organization located in Newport Beach and specializes in developing outlet malls - got the buy of the century. My sources tell me that it wouldn't be unusual to spend $2.5 million per acre for similar property - Craig will get the Fairgrounds for around $377,000 per acre. No wonder he bid on it! If you're interested in learning about Craig Realty Group, here's their web site: www.craigrealtygroup.com.
CALLING "THE MAN"
Eager to hear from Craig Realty Group President Steve Craig himself about his plans for the Fairgrounds, I placed a call to his office shortly after the auction was finished. He wasn't there, so I left a message, never really expecting to have him return my call. Later, on a second try, I was shunted off to his marketing person in San Diego, who couldn't or wouldn't tell me a thing about their plans. I figured that was the end of it. Nope!
HE ACTUALLY CALLED BACK!
Late this afternoon Steve Craig called me back. My message was on top of his stack of 200 other messages, so I lucked out. I simply wanted to confirm a quote he apparently gave Tony Barboza of the Los Angeles Times following the auction: “We see this as an interesting opportunity to enhance something that’s here,” said Steven Craig, president and chief executive of Craig Realty, a commercial real estate firm in Newport Beach. “I’m happy to keep the fair here. We like it that way. But we’d like to find a way to make it financially viable. Maybe a private enterprise approach will work.”
FIVE MINUTES TURNS INTO FORTY!
He acknowledged that sounded about right and I was satisfied, but our conversation continued - for 40 minutes!
SAN CLEMENTE OUTLET MALL IN THE WORKS
We spoke on a range of issues, mostly about the Fairgrounds and his other developments. For example, some already know that he has closed escrow on the former SunCal property in San Clemente and plans to build an outlet mall down there on what is known as the Marblehead location. As we discussed that project I asked him if he knew either Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer or Planning Commissioner Steve Mensinger, both of whom headed up divisions of SunCal Companies. He said he didn't...
HIS BID THE WORST CASE SCENARIO FOR MANY
Steve Craig struck me as a pretty straightforward guy, proud of his developments and his professed concern for the communities in which they are located. I think many of us, when thinking about outlet malls, get a kind of bad taste in our mouths - visions of tacky venues, packed with people and overrun with traffic pop into my head. I told him that his successful bidding for The Fairgrounds is the worst possible scenario for many folks concerned about the future of The Fairgrounds and our community.
NO OUTLET MALL AT THE FAIRGROUNDS!
At that point we had a long discussion about his plans for the site. He told me that he does not want to put an outlet mall at the Fairgrounds location, period! He appreciates what it is, the historical significance to our communities it represents and the cultural hole it would leave if the Fair were to disappear from that site. He told me he wants to retain the uses that are there, but to make visiting the Fairgrounds an "enhanced" experience. He says he wants to make it better.
HE'S A HORSE GUY, TOO
Craig understands about the various constituencies that have banded together to fight the sale of the Fairgrounds. He understands the angst of the horse folks. He's a horse guy, too. He joked that, when he saw the horses at the demonstration this morning, he thought he should have ridden one to the auction himself.
NO PLANS TO EVICT THE MARKETPLACE
He understands about the apprehension the vendors at The Marketplace have about the future of their livelihoods, but doesn't have any plans to evict that venue from the Fairgrounds.
He's excited about the addition of the Barrett-Jackson Automobile Auction to the Fairgrounds events schedule and hopes to work with them to perpetuate it beyond next year. Seems he's a "car guy", too.
NOT WORRIED ABOUT GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT
Craig also understands the potential obstacle in front of him in the form of Costa Mesa's plans to pass a General Plan amendment to tighten up the potential uses of the Fairgrounds site, and the ballot measure being prepared for the June ballot to further lock those uses in. He professed to me that his plans for the site will all meet the use restrictions.
HIS PLANS SOUND GOOD... SO FAR
I came away from my conversation with Steve Craig comfortable with his plans, tentative as they are at this early date. He knows the rug might be pulled out from under him by the State Department of General Services, who may decide his bid is inadequate. Final acceptance of his bid might take as long as three months.
HE NEEDS TO PRESS THE FLESH - SOON
In the meantime, I hope he soon takes the opportunity to meet with community leaders and other members who have fought so hard to have the sale quashed. If he's serious with his plans as described to me, he needs to make some friends pretty soon.
DON'T LET UP - STOP THE SALE!
My friends at The City of Costa Mesa still have the goal to kill the sale and encouraged me - and all of you - to keep up the pressure on the governor to cancel it and, simultaneously, continue to push for the passage of Jose Solorio's AB1590. This fight isn't over yet...