Plans advance for hotel in the Dunes

Plans to develop a hotel on waterfront land in Newport Dunes are moving forward some 20 years after an entitlement for a 275-room family inn was put in place for the site.

Talks are underway between Orange County officials and the developer, Santa Monica-based Windsor Capital Group, to build a $65-million hotel on the land, said Richard Adler, chief of lease management for Orange County parks.

Allowing two years to get all the proper approvals and another two to secure financing for the project, and more time for construction, a hotel in Newport Dunes could open as early as 2013, Adler said.

“The economic situation has changed dramatically over the past year, but hopefully everything will remain in place and the financing will work,” Adler said.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider beginning negotiations on a 50-year lease on the land, which would begin when the hotel is completed.

Local officials aren’t holding their breath on the deal.

“It’s far from a sure thing at this point,” said Gary Sherwin, president and chief executive of the Newport Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau. “Should it come to pass, and I hope it does, I think it would be a phenomenal addition to Newport Beach, but there are many more hurdles to overcome.”

Evans Hotels of San Diego once tried unsuccessfully to get approval for a 581,000-square-foot, 470-room resort and conference center on the land. The developer was sent packing when Newport’s Greenlight Initiative passed in 2000. The slow-growth ballot measure requires voter approval for large building projects.

Adler estimated building a 275-room hotel on the land and raising fees on boat storage in the area would generate about $1.2 million a year for the county. Newport Beach could stand to gain $2.1 million annually from hotel occupancy taxes from the project, he estimated.

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