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Doug Manchester has exited the media business and fully returned to what’s helped him amass his fortune: real estate.
The 73-year-old San Diego developer closed on some high-dollar transactions this year — from selling off the business portion of the San Diego Union-Tribune for $85 million to unloading his majority stake in the ultra-luxe Grand Del Mar hotel for a reported $230 million. He even carved out time this summer to snatch up a getaway mansion in Rhode Island.
Unlike those done deals, others on his plate are still very much in flux. And even though he’s left San Diego media, he still will have lots of influence on the city’s future through these projects.
A Manchester spokeswoman said the businessman has been on the East Coast and was unavailable to comment on his project’s recent developments. But here’s the latest on those projects:
Manchester has put the Union-Tribune property on the market. The Tribune Publishing Company, which bought the paper’s business but not the main office, declined to discuss whether it will continue leasing in that location or relocate. The paper’s lease is set to end next May, a year from when Manchester sold to Tribune. That timing would suggest the Union-Tribune only has a few months to decide whether to move or to stay in Mission Valley, since both options would require time, either to build out a new space or to make improvements to the current one.
Any sale appears to depend on the final approval of Manchester’s proposal to develop the nearly 13 acres of land surrounding the U-T into a 200-unit apartment project. The city planning commission greenlit the project in June. But well-known environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez appealed that decision, saying the project’s environmental analysis obscured its potential impact on climate change.
The City Council is scheduled to weigh in next month.
Manchester’s apartment plan also includes 3,000 square feet of retail, a parking garage and a public pocket park — a slimmed-down version of the vision Manchester proposed three years ago.
Overall, the planning commission expressed overwhelming support for the latest version of the project.
“They came back with what I think is a reasonable size of density for that land and location,” commission member Deborah Bossmeyer said in the June hearing.
Mission Valley is expecting explosive growth in the coming years, which means traffic could become a nightmare.
Manchester’s plan to redevelop a slice of highly desirable waterfront property downtown has faced repeated delays since 2006.
That year, Manchester and the Navy agreed on a deal that would allow him to put in office space, hotels and other amenities on a 16-acre site enclosed by Broadway Street, Harbor Drive and the Pacific Coast Highway.
In exchange, the Navy would get a new structure to replace its aging, existing regional headquarters without the use of public funds.
Since then it’s been legal battle after legal battle for Manchester.
The latest snag involves the California Coastal Commission. In 2013, the agency sued Manchester’s real estate company and the Navy, arguing the scope of the redevelopment plan has ballooned beyond what was originally approved by the commission more than 20 years ago. A federal judge ruled against the commission, and the agency fired back last summer with an appeal.
The appeal is still pending and will probably stretch the project’s delay to next year, according to the Union-Tribune. Perry Dealy, who’s managing this project and the Union-Tribune plan, did not answer repeated requests for an interview.
Manchester’s plan to expand his real estate empire in downtown San Diego doesn’t stop at the Navy Broadway Complex.
Down the road, his name could be splashed across the former Sempra building. Manchester has teamed up with Sandor Shapery, the tower’s longtime co-owner, to redevelop the building.
Their goal is turn the 19-story structure, located on Ash Street and First Avenue, into a space that would attract top rental rates.
Shapery says he’s tried to market the building to the Union-Tribune and the city of San Diego. But the property’s major hindrance is lack of parking for the type of tenants they’re trying to lure.
Manchester has said he’s considering several ideas, including converting the space into a hotel or residences, maintaining it as offices or doing a mix of everything.
Scott Lewis contributed to this report.