Tom Selleck Uncovers Dirt in Palmdale

Times Staff Writer

Tom Selleck was in Southern California a few days ago to uncover some dirt, not in his TV detective role as Magnum P.I., but wearing his (hard) hat as a principal of Selleck Properties, a real estate development/investment/management company that has offices in Sherman Oaks and is headed by his older (by 18 months) brother, Robert.

The pair participated in ground-breaking ceremonies for their $11.5-million Gateway Center, a 135,467-square-foot neighborhood retail project that Selleck Properties is developing in Palmdale on Palmdale Boulevard between 17th Street East and 20th Street East.

Could be because of the handsome, 41-year-old actor’s appeal that leasing is going so well, but the center will provide the first Hughes supermarket, PayLess drugstore and La Petite Academy child-care center in the Antelope Valley. Future tenants have spoken for more than half of the 48,657 square feet of shop space, and the ground for it is still being leveled.


This isn’t Selleck Properties’ first business venture, but it is the 4-year-old firm’s first real estate development. So it is the movie-TV star’s first experience in his real-life developer’s role.

Selleck Properties also owns a 40-acre mixed-use site in Palmdale and a 4.5-acre Hughes market center in Malibu, and it has taken a purchase-agreement option on a retail project in the San Fernando Valley.

Eugene Klein--former owner of the San Diego Chargers and National General Corp. and now one of the top thoroughbred-racehorse owners in the world, has also put on his real estate developer’s hat and started work, through his newly formed Del Rayo Properties, on his 420-acre Del Rayo community in Rancho Santa Fe, that posh estate community 25 miles north of San Diego.

His first project there is Del Rayo Estates, overlooking Klein’s 240-acre thoroughbred training facilities. In the first phase, there will be 11 sites, generally 2.3 to 5.2 acres in size and $650,000 to $875,000 in price, although the biggest ticket will be $2 million for a 13.2-acre parcel, called “Kentucky Derby” and zoned (of course) for equestrians.

In case you missed it, another sign of Hollywood’s comeback appeared in the past couple of weeks--the opening of the Columbia Bar & Grill on one of Hollywood’s prime corners: Sunset and Gower.

Actor Wayne Rogers, producers Paul Witt and Tony Thomas (son of Danny Thomas) and writer Susan Harris (of TV sitcoms “The Golden Girls” and “Benson”) and ad exec Harvey Pool are the principal owners, with other investors mainly from the entertainment industry.

Another link to the industry is John Siebel Associates Architects, which designed the exterior. As a child, Siebel appeared on TV’s “Leave It to Beaver,” and he has a special interest in Hollywood history. “Did you know,” he asked, “that on the site of the Columbia Bar & Grill was the original Columbia Pictures commissary?”

The Ambassador, that fine old hotel in the mid-Wilshire area of L. A. that had many claims to fame before that tragic day in 1968 when Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated there, may soon be refurbished and surrounded by offices, shops and/or residences.

John Grinch, with Brooks Harvey Co. (New York real estate subsidiary of the Morgan Stanley Co., investment bankers), said his firm was retained “to advise the owner on the hotel’s disposition and offer for sale.” The price? Grinch wouldn’t say.

However, he said, “It will not be available to the whole brokerage community. It’s going to be handled on a very selective basis, dealing only with qualified principals.”

He views the hotel property as “a challenge to somebody to put it to its highest and best use” and defined that as possibly including office, retail and residential development. “Undoubtedly, the hotel will remain,” he emphasized, “and be restored to its former luster.”

This idea brings a sigh from preservationists, who long feared that the 1921 landmark, owned by the Schine family for years, would be torn down. Ruthann Lehrer, executive director of the L. A. Conservancy, said, “The Conservancy is very pleased to hear that the Ambassador Hotel will be preserved and become a centerpiece for a new development. We strongly feel that the hotel’s value as a historical and cultural building is of tremendous importance to this city.”

The Conservancy nominated the building for city landmark status some time ago, “but it was taken under consideration,” Lehrer added. “Now we hope that will move forward since there seems to be a consensus on preserving the hotel.”