Sporting crisp blue suits and gripping shiny gold shovels, Miramar developer Rick Caruso and his partners with Rosewood Hotels and Resorts turned over a bit of ceremonial dirt this Monday as construction on the much-anticipated luxury resort finally got underway.
"This project has been well worth the wait," said Caruso, who purchased the 16-acre beachfront property nearly a decade ago but delayed construction during multiple rounds of intense permitting and financing negotiations.
Speaking to an assembled crowd of Montecito movers and shakers, Caruso promised the Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito resort would redefine the ultra-luxury market. "It's going to be the finest resort on the California coast, and we want it to be one of the finest resorts in the world," he said. Building is estimated to cost around $200 million. The five-star hotel will feature 170 rooms, including lanai cottages and garden bungalows, as well as multiple pools, restaurants, a membership-only beach club, and a 6,000-square-foot ballroom.
Caruso also promised to honor the legacy of the original Miramar Beach Hotel, which was built in the 1880s. In the years leading up to its closure in 2000, the Miramar was popular among middle-income families and vacationers as it offered moderate room rates and amenities not often found at beachside hotels. "There's a long history," said Caruso. "And it's a long history that we want to celebrate and we want to be respectful of. We really want to be part of this community."
Caruso Affiliated, the developer's Los Angeles-based real estate firm, also announced Monday that Luigi Romaniello with Rosewood Hotels and Resorts has been named managing director of the new Miramar. Romaniello was most recently the managing director of Rosewood Abu Dhabi hotel. The hotel chain has 18 locations around the world with plans to expand to 41 in the next three years. From 2006-2011, it managed the San Ysidro Ranch.
Caruso Affiliated has so far declined to disclose the Miramar's projected room rates, explaining only that "the rooms, suites, and bungalows will be priced in line with similar five-star luxury resorts in the area and the greater Southern California region." Currently, nightly rates at the Bacara Resort & Spa, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, and the San Ysidro Ranch — all five-star hotels in the Santa Barbara area — range from $500-$800 for a regular room and upward of $2,000 for a suite.
Caruso Affiliated stated Miramar construction would generate 1,000 new jobs, with 200 full- and part-time jobs opening once the resort comes online, which is scheduled for summer 2018. Works hours will be from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday–Friday, with no work on the weekends or state holidays.
As those gathered Monday travelled a short distance after the groundbreaking from the South Jameson Lane property to Lucky's steakhouse for lunch, they passed by a small protest. The demonstrators held signs and gave statements about their displeasure with Caruso and his wife donating a combined $10,800 to the congressional campaign of 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who along with the other four county supervisors granted final approval for the Miramar last year. In 2011, Caruso also donated $15,000 to Carbajal’s supervisorial reelection campaign.
The protestors claimed the financial contributions greased the wheels in getting the Miramar approved. In response, Carbajal's campaign said his vote was based on the recommendations from independent planning commissions, and that the project will greatly benefit the county with annual tax revenues of $3.5 million. Caruso told reporters the bribery allegations were ridiculous, that Carbajal was actually "very, very tough to deal with."