A legendary family firm will team up with a relative newcomer to the region to create final opportunities for hotel development along the Santa Barbara waterfront.
Fess Parker Enterprises, LLC, the family firm founded by the late actor and entrepreneur Fess Parker, announced on May 15 that it will team up with The Robert Green Company to develop a vacant three-acre parcel along Cabrillo Boulevard.
“Our family is very pleased to be aligned with The Robert Green Company to bring our dream of a luxury hotel on this parcel to fruition,” Ashley and Eli Parker, co-CEOs of Fespar Enterprises, said in a release. “We have confidence in Robert and his team and feel strongly that the project is in good hands.”
The release did not provide a hotel brand or a final room count but said construction will begin in 2020 on a Santa Barbara-style complex designed by architect Robert Glazier. Glazier has worked with Green on Four Season Hotels in Jackson Hole and in the Silicon Valley.
Previously, Eli Parker told the Business Times that the as-yet unnamed hotel would have 58 rooms.
The May 15 news release said the property will have meeting space, a restaurant and bar and outdoor space with a rooftop pool deck.
Green has developed luxury hotels and resorts for the past 20 years with brands such as Four Seasons, Montage Hotels & Resorts and, most recently, the new Pendry Hotels & Resorts brand.
“We are so proud to have been selected by the Parker family,” said Robert Green, Jr., founder, president and CEO, in the release.
The partnership with Green sets in motion development of a project that dates back decades when Fess Parker purchased a deteriorated rail yard from Southern Pacific Railroad in order to build what is now the Hilton Waterfront Santa Barbara along Cabrillo Boulevard.
The Hilton property became synonymous with the actor in its prior incarnations as the Fess Parker Red Lion and DoubleTree resorts.
Parker, who earned fame if not fortune playing both Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone, also expanded into the Santa Ynez Valley with a winery operation and small hotel in Los Olivos.
Upon his death in 2010, his son and daughter took control over his holdings which included full ownership of the three-acre parcel adjacent to the Hilton property.
The Hilton property itself is not fully owned by Fespar and the family has indicated it would be patient in developing the new hotel, viewed by many to be the crown jewel among the Fespar holdings.
In terms of Santa Barbara, opportunities to develop hotel properties on the coast are rare events.
It took more than a decade and at least two ownership changes before Los Angeles developer Michael Rosenfeld developed and opened the Hotel Californian near the intersection of State Street and Cabrillo Boulevard.
Rick Caruso’s rebuilt Miramar Hotel, opened earlier this year, was 25 years in the making with hotelier Ian Schrager and entrepreneur Ty Warner tossing in the towel before the Los Angeles developer proved to have the stamina to withstand court challenges, withering criticism and charges by actress Julia Louis Dreyfus that he had a “shrinkage problem.”
The Bacara Resort & Spa, now the Ritz-Carlton, also went through a series of ownership changes since it opened in 2000. Founder and developer Alvin Dworman was replaced by an investment arm of eBay founder Pierre Omidydar and is now owned by two divisions of private equity firm Carey Watermark investors.
Under Fess Parker and the current co-CEOs Eli and Ashley, Fespar has been in no rush to develop the Cabrillo Boulevard parcel. It has moved just enough dirt to keep its permits alive for a number of years and preferred not to develop during the financial crisis and economic downturn that followed.
Its modus operandi has been to exercise patience, manage risks carefully and retain control. That philosophy appears to be at work as the family contemplates the completion of its last, and perhaps most valuable, holding.