Rancho Palos Verdes officials say that a resort hotel and conference center on the former Marineland site would be an economic boon for the community, perhaps allowing the city to repeal a utility user's tax it imposed last year.
Less than a week after Arizona developer James G. Monaghan purchased the aging aquatic park and then said he intended to build such a complex, city officials have already projected what it could earn the city.
"It would most definitely expand our tax base," City Manager Dennis McDuffie said this week. An upscale hotel and conference facility would bring the city at least $1.5 million annually in new taxes, he said.
Monaghan announced last Thursday that he had bought the park from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., an Orlando, Fla.-based book publisher and theme park operator. Harcourt paid $23.4 million for the park last December, and then shut it down in February after it said it did not want to spend $25 million to renovate the park. Neither Harcourt nor Monaghan would disclose the purchase price.
'World Class' Hotel
Monaghan could not be reached for comment this week. In a press release and through spokesmen, however, he said he intends to develop a "world class" resort hotel and conference center on the 100 or so acres of prime oceanfront land.
Although plans for the project are still in the preliminary stage, Monaghan said he would incorporate some of the present Marineland buildings into the development. He also said he hopes to reopen the Galley West, a 12,000-square-foot restaurant that once operated at Marineland and was popular with area residents. The restaurant was designed by architect William L. Pereira, who died in 1985.
Monaghan, who has developed projects in Arizona, Texas and Florida, appears intent on not making the same mistakes Harcourt did after it purchased the park. The Fortune 500 company, which initially stated that it planned to keep the park open, angered city officials by failing to keep them informed about its plans for the park.
Already, Monaghan has hired a land-use consulting firm, Harrison Price Co., to assist him in planning the project. He also has hired John Corcoran, former general manager and vice president of operations at Marineland, as a consultant. Corcoran, a past president of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said he will assist Monaghan in "community and government relations."
Monaghan's proposal to build a hotel on the site comes several years after Warwick International, the Hong Kong-based company that owned Marineland and sold it to Harcourt, hired Pannell Kerr Forster, a national hotel consulting firm, to determine whether such a project next to the park would be economically sound.
Diane Yep of Pannell Kerr Forster's Los Angeles office said the firm concluded that a resort hotel could succeed. She said similar resort hotels on the water in other cities, such as San Diego, have done well.
"If you look along the coast in Los Angeles, you really don't have (a resort hotel) like this," Yep said. "It's a great location, and it's close to the airport. Those are the types of things people like to see."
Harrison Price said the project would be consistent with the land's present zoning, which allows commercial and recreational uses. It could take three years before the project is completed, Price said.
Price War Started
Price said that he does not believe the project would compete for customers with a number of other hotels now under construction or planned in the South Bay. At present, 3,700 first-class hotel rooms are being built or planned for the area, and hoteliers say a price war has already begun.
"We're not talking about an in-town, conventional, business-oriented" development, he said.
Under a city ordinance passed after Harcourt bought Marineland, Monaghan has 30 days from the time he purchased the park to submit development plans for the site to city officials. Such plans are likely to be only conceptual in nature.
McDuffie said Monaghan, a native of Canada who became a U. S. citizen last year, has indicated to city officials that he would remain active in the center's operations after it is built. "One thing he said to us was that he is not here to build the project and sell it off," McDuffie said.
Rancho Palos Verdes earned about $100,000 annually in sales and utility user's taxes from Marineland before it was closed. At one time, city officials had proposed levying a tax on admission, but did not enact one.
$1.4 Million in Taxes
Monaghan has indicated to city officials that the hotel would have 400 rooms. The city would receive an estimated $1.4 million annually in bed taxes, or so-called transient occupancy taxes, on such a facility, McDuffie said. The figure is based on an annual occupancy rate of 74% and a room rate of $200 a night, he said.
Such a project also would generate an estimated $70,000 annually in sales taxes and $30,000 in miscellaneous taxes, he said.