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Santa Ana : Trial Date Is Set for Centerpointe Project

A lawsuit filed by opponents of the city’s proposed Centerpointe project has been set for trial on June 25 in Orange County Superior Court.

Centerpointe, planned for a 3.2-acre site southeast of Ross Street and Santa Ana Boulevard, would consist of a 15-story office building and an eight-story hotel connected by a glass atrium spanning a conference center. The city’s investment in the project would include acquiring and clearing the land, conveying it to the developer, Milwaukee-based Carley Capital, at a reduced price, and construction of the conference center and a parking structure.

Two groups, the Alliance for Fair Redevelopment and the Citizens Property Rights Committee, sued the city last October to block the project and held a press conference Thursday to discuss the issue. Attorney David Llewellyn Jr. estimated the city’s investment at about $18.2 million, an amount he called a “tax subsidy for the rich, a so-called Robin Hood in reverse.”

David Ream, executive director of community development for the city, said the $18.2-million figure is “too high,” although he would not say what the correct amount should be, citing the pending litigation. Ream, calling the project “a landmark for the city,” said the city’s investment is “absolutely not” excessive.

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Llewellyn said the groups allege that the project violates redevelopment law because it is not the “highest and best use” of the land, as required by state law. He said the best use would be for the city to sell the land at market value to a developer of an office building with surface parking.

The city’s agreement with Carley Capital calls for Santa Ana to lease 72,000 square feet in the office building. Although Llewellyn charged that the city’s goal is to move City Hall to Centerpointe, Ream said the city will use both buildings and already leases “almost that much space” in several buildings downtown because the Civic Center building is overcrowded.

Former Mayor Gordon Bricken, who said he is acting as a consultant to the plaintiffs, appeared at the press conference and called Centerpointe a “travesty.” He said he believes the council and City Manager Robert C. Bobb want to build a “monument to themselves” on the site.

Maureen McAvey, director of development for Carley, said the lawsuit is “nothing unusual” for a large project, adding that she expects a two-year construction period to begin shortly after the suit is settled. She said that the city’s subsidy pales next to an estimated $100-million investment by the firm that she called “a substantial risk.”


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