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BOTTOM LINE : The Green, Green Hills of ... Santa Ana

August 08, 1993|Sharon Tetrault

As vice president of Brookfield Development in 1989, Murray Hay had big dreams. After two years of planning and negotiations, the company's sprawling urban village in the heart of the business district around Orange County's South Coast Plaza was almost ready to break ground. Then the real estate bubble burst.

Suddenly, no bank was willing to finance the construction of millions of square feet of office and retail space in an already glutted market. So, after sinking more than $76 million into 65 acres of land and infrastructure, the company was left with a pile of impressive blueprints.

Hay began a desperate search to find an interim project that a bank would back. Then it hit him: a golf center that would cater to nearby executives.

In 1990, Hay left Brookfield to develop the project himself, negotiating a 10-year lease with Brookfield and the bank that holds the mortgage on the land. The 16-acre MacArthur Place Golf Practice Center, scheduled to open last week, boasts a driving range, two fairways, an 18-hole natural green putting course, a sand trap and chipping area and a pro shop.

Hay is betting that the center, which he says is the first of its kind in the country, will appeal to the thousands of hackers who work in the surrounding office buildings.

In 10 years, though, his center will face an almost certain demise. His deal with Brookfield, the bank and the city of Santa Ana mandates that the land be used for development at that time. "I guess I'll roll up my turf and walk down the highway," he says. If it's successful, though, "you may find me chained to the fence, refusing to leave."

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