Manchester’s Navy Broadway complex: hurry up and wait

Warren Buffet, mortgage banker, called in to find loan for Trump backer’s mega-project

Architectural rendering of proposed Navy Broadway Complex
  • Architectural rendering of proposed Navy Broadway Complex

Ex–Union-Tribune owner and Republican kingpin Doug Manchester, still awaiting confirmation as ambassador to the Bahamas, also continues his quest for $650 million to finance his long-stalled Navy Broadway complex in downtown San Diego.

Doug Manchester, Sr.

Doug Manchester, Sr.

An October 13 news release by Berkadia Hotels and Hospitality Group says the company "has been tasked with sourcing a 50 percent [loan-to-cost] non-recourse construction loan that will close by year-end 2017. Berkadia Senior Managing Director Andrew Coleman and Managing Director Jackson Cloak will lead the team’s efforts."

Berkadia, a joint venture of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia National Corporation is a commercial mortgage loan banker and loan servicer, per the firm's website.

Manchester overcame the final legal challenge to his controversial $1.3 billion Navy Broadway project in March of last year when an appeals court rejected arguments that potential terrorist threats to the high-end mix of hotels, shops, restaurants, and Navy administrative offices had been inadequately weighed.

The government "could have, and should have, considered the environmental impact of at least a few attack scenarios at the Complex," opined dissenting senior district judge James G. Carr. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case last December.

Since then, the project has languished as the La Jolla real estate maven has sought to assemble financing. In April, as Manchester began tearing down buildings on the site, the developer's representative told the Union-Tribune that the money would be soon in hand.

"Perry Dealy, Manchester's project manager, said the demolition will cost $4.5 million and is being paid [for] by Manchester Financial Group. He said there should be an announcement in the next 60 to 90 days that all financing is in order."

Doug Jr.

Doug Jr.

When Manchester faced similar financing delays with an Austin, Texas, hotel project in 2013, he and his son, also named Doug, sought money from Chinese investors, using the federal government’s EB-5 program. The arrangement allows foreign investors to obtain permanent residency visas in exchange for putting cash into American projects.

After that failed, Manchester turned in October 2014 to Santa Monica billionaire, distressed-asset lender, and fellow Donald Trump mega-funder Thomas Barrack, Jr., a University of San Diego law school alumnus, for a $295 million loan.

Whether or not Berkadia comes up with the Navy Broadway funding, the question of who will run Manchester Financial if its founder finally becomes ambassador to the Bahamas remains up in the air.

"Upon confirmation, I will resign my position with the firm," Manchester pledged in a March 30 letter to Katherine McManus, the State Department’s deputy legal adviser and designated agency ethics official.

"Although I will remain the sole owner of the firm, I will not provide services material to the production of income. Instead, I will receive only passive investment income from it.”

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Bizarre: he's willing to walk away from day-to-day involvement in what would be his biggest and most memorable project in exchange for being ambassador to the . . . Bahamas? Boy, that's a prestige appointment, right up there with being ambassador to Monaco (if there's such a position), or Lichtenstein, or maybe Lower Slobbovia! We can only take away from this the idea that he's so obsessed with being an ambassador--never mind to what country--that's he's eager to abandon his business. Are these the actions of a sane man? It's hard to imagine that, but then he's done enough things in recent years to make anyone wonder about his real sanity. Dougo is in his dotage methinks.

That's only true if you believe he's really going to step away from his sole ownership business. Dougie Jr. will run everything by Pappy and no one in the current Administration will bat an eye at the conflict of interest.

And you can be sure that the perk in this for Pappy is being able to demand everyone for the rest of his life address him as "Mr. Ambassador."

Well, yes, that's the motivation. But as to whether he would be nervy enough to keep control, that's another matter. Plenty of those in the fifth estate will watch him closely, and he will need to be very careful about everything he does.

Isn't Thomas Barrack the guy who reportedly is making a bid to bail out the Weinstein Brothers enterprise? How many Barracks can there be? Not counting the One we had been waiting for whose first name was Barrack and is now retired.

I'm not on board with his beliefs... but I do want this building built. I'm sure he is having trouble financing because no one thinks he will find tenants to fill the office space.

It'd be nice for there to be some high quality buildings built that provide a space for people who want to work in the city.

Something should be built, but this particular rendition looks chunky and unattractive. I will go out on a limb and say it looks like a squat version of the Rockefeller Center, without the artistry.

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