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The Miramar’s New Man

Today presented the first official affirmation that Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso is indeed buying the Miramar Hotel from Ty Warner. During a press conference this morning at Coast Village Road restaurant Cava, Caruso told a group of reporters he had entered escrow on the 14-acre property two days ago and could close on the hotel in the matter of two weeks.

Neither Caruso nor representatives of Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts were willing to discuss financial details of the deal. But Caruso did say he made a “significant” down payment, a suggestion that he was entirely committed to the acquisition.

Warner has reportedly received multiple offers for the Miramar in the $50-million range, which is about $8 million more than what he paid for the club in early 2005.

Dressed in a black suit, the well-tanned Caruso, whose experience is most abundant in building posh shopping centers in the Los Angeles area, said he was eager to get started on his new endeavor: the hotel industry. With memories of the Miramar lingering back to his childhood, he said his greatest wish was to get the hotel back and running.

“Everybody has a story about the Miramar, whether it’s from their childhood or whether it’s bringing their children to the hotel,” he said. “We want to celebrate that.”

During an hour-long discussion this morning, Caruso laid out grand plans for the 213-room hotel that combine a mission to make money with a desire to satisfy residents who have longed for a timely reopening of the facilities that closed in 2000.

“I’m getting into this to make a profit,” he said. “I’m not building this as a legacy.”

As the ink on his deal with Warner begins to dry, Caruso said he wanted to move quickly and have designs for the project submitted to the County within two months. The approach for the project, he said, would be “community-oriented,” welcoming input from residents on all aspects, even ones as trivial as the color of the hotel roofs.

“If the community wants blue roofs, then we’ll have the blue roofs,” he said.

Caruso also said that like his previous projects, he would stay “hands-on for everything we do, down to the picking of the flowers.”

Sitting by his side at the press conference was an ebullient First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who spoke enthusiastically of Caruso as someone he believes will do right by the Miramar and the residents of Montecito.

“The Miramar project has stayed fallow for far too long. It’s been an eyesore for the entire community,” Carbajal said. “Mr. Caruso is committed to serving the community with a type of attitude and approach we want.

“The County of Santa Barbara will do whatever we can to help Mr. Caruso in whatever way we can,” Carbajal added. “We’re ready to go whenever he is.”

For in-depth coverage of this developing story, including feedback and analysis from Montecito leaders and residents, please catch the next issue of the Journal that prints on January 31.