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Judy Foreman: Miramar Developer Rick Caruso Shares His Vision of a Welcoming Destination

On a recent Tuesday evening, more than 100 people gathered in the gracious living room at the Montecito home of Julie and Jaime Kellner. The event at the East Valley home was co-hosted with Montecito residents Susanne and Gary Tobey. The evening was billed as an informational update on the 16-acre Miramar hotel project from developer Rick Caruso of Caruso Affiliated and architect for the Miramar Resort, Marc Appleton.

As the Montecito Association unanimously endorsed the project on Tuesday evening, the audience was told by Susanne Tobey that "there is one hurdle left to cross when the Montecito Planning Commission will meet on Dec. 15 in downtown Santa Barbara."

Attendees at the event were encouraged to attend the morning meeting and to sign a letter addressed to David Villalobos, board assistant supervisor, urging the Montecito Planning Commission to approve the latest version of the Miramar Beach Resort and Bungalows plan, the design for which has been painstakingly worked on to be both respectful of the Miramar’s past and responsive to the intricacies of the design in Montecito.

The meeting included a comprehensive update from Appleton with the current drawings outlining the architectural design and landscaping details. One of the changes requested and implemented was reconfiguring the entrance to include a direct oceanview when entering the resort.

“Most of the resort will be a one-story bungalow with some two-story units facing Jameson with substantial lush landscaping," said Appleton, a master architect of historical architecture who also conducted a three-year renovation of the San Ysidro Ranch.

Caruso then addressed the crowd with his updates and his vision for the project. Part of the shared vision between architect and developer included taking a once historic home and restoring it to its greatness. If everything is approved and further obstacles removed, the start date will be in June 2015 with an open date in June 2017.

Caruso said he hopes the Miramar will have a level of elegance and sophistication but not be standoffish. His vision is to create a soft, gracious and welcoming generation destination.

“Guests and locals should be able to use the restaurants and be comfortable in a blazer or a bathing suit. There are no outside investors or shareholders," said Caruso, whose goal is “to keep the Caruso property in the family hands for generations to come.

"We feel we have the wind at our back now and we are ready to start!"

Kellner
Co-hosts Susanne Tobey and Julie Kellner. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo)

The original plan for 189 rooms has been reduced to 170. There will be approximately 200 employees total, with 50 percent of them on site. The current occupancy rate for high-end hotels in Santa Barbara is north of 80 percent, and Caruso expects Miramar to be in that range. He will also rebuild the boardwalk for the public, and some portions will be part of the guests’ balcony.

One of Caruso's desires — and he admits it would be a challenge — is to work with Amtrak to get it to reinstate the train station stop at the Miramar for guests traveling to the resort. The Beach Club would also be reinstated to include up to 300 members. There would be separate areas for members with valet parking, use of the pool restaurant and beach. The Miramar will be the only five-star hotel in Santa Barbara that can serve food and alcohol on the sand at 9 a.m.

The consensus of the attendees after the meeting is that the community has everything to gain by the Miramar project beginning. Revenues from occupancy tax, sales tax, increased property tax, employment opportunities and the spillover to local shops and restaurants is huge plus for the community. Additional perks include significantly improved public beach access and amenities.

Miramar supporters can help by contacting Villalobos at [email protected], Supervisor Salud Carbajal at [email protected] and Jeremy Title, executive staff assistant, at [email protected]. For more information, contact Caruso Affiliated manager of development Evan Krenzien at [email protected] or 323.900.8196.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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