The owner of the 76-unit apartment project on Milpas Street in Santa Barbara has a new financial partner: developer Ed St. George.
Alan Bleecker, owner of Capitol Hardware, and St. George have joined forces on the $26 million project at 711 N. Milpas St.
“It was a match made in heaven,” Bleecker told Noozhawk on Friday.
Bleecker won approval from the Santa Barbara City Council in 2019 to build a 76-unit apartment project on property he owns in the 700 block of Milpas Street. Bleecker plans to break ground on the project within the next two months.
Plans call for 44 two-bedroom units and 32 one-bedroom units ranging in size from 575 to 805 square feet. The project will have 76 parking spaces and 80 bike parking spots, and is intended for working professionals.
The apartment development endured years of planning hurdles and eventually a denial at the Architectural Board of Review before it was approved by the City Council in March.
“The project got so big and expensive that we needed an outside partner,” Bleecker said.
The A-team duo of Bleecker and St. George will build a project that sits at the heart of community discussion about the future of Milpas Street. The project was approved under the city’s controversial average unit-sized density incentive program, which allows developers to build dense housing projects — above what the zoning for the site normally would allow — if they are rentals.
The area of Milpas Street and the Eastside is largely a Latino, working-class community of residents and business owners, and there are concerns that an expensive, contemporary apartment building in the area will drive up the cost of land and housing in the area — and possibly push out residents.
Bleecker has long been an advocate for the Eastside, as a business owner and as a member of the Milpas Community Association.
This business partnership formed as a result of timing and relationships.
St. George told Noozhawk that Bleecker’s father-in-law, Gordon Reisig, a banker at then-Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, extended him a line of credit two decades ago when St. George was an upstart builder and needed a hand to keep his business going. He said he felt a sense of loyalty to the Bleecker family.
Then, St. George found himself battling the City Council in November over a hotel project near West Beach and Santa Barbara City College. A mutual friend of St. George and Bleecker asked Bleecker to speak at the meeting on St. George’s behalf. At the meeting, dozens of St. George’s friends and associates spoke, urging the council to back his project.
“I said to myself, ‘This is exactly what we need,’” Bleecker said. “We need someone who is community-minded. We need someone who is ethical. We got together and it made sense.”
St. George told Noozhawk that he doesn’t typically do partnerships because of a couple of bad experiences.
“I’ve had partnerships,” St. George said. “It ruins relationships.”
But this union appears to be different.
“If it wasn’t for Gordon, I wouldn’t even be in Santa Barbara right now,” St. George said. “Honestly, it just feels like family.”
Bleecker owns Capitol Hardware with his business partner Jay Bjorndahl and recently acquired Santa Barbara Plumbing Supplies, 621 Milpas St. He will move Capitol Hardware into the Plumbing Supplies building to build the project. St. George, a Santa Barbara High School graduate, owns apartment buildings in Isla Vista and Santa Barbara, including Beach City near Santa Barbara City College.
Bleecker said that St. George is the perfect developer for the project, and that he cares and understands the community.
“Housing is the only way to fix Santa Barbara,” Bleecker said. “We want it to be workforce housing for people who work in the downtown core. I believe this project has to be done right.”
St. George said he plans to build “one of the best gyms in Santa Barbara” for the tenants, and he can’t wait to get going. “This thing is not going to be like anything Santa Barbara has ever seen before.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.