Sold to new owner

San Pedro’s long planned housing development, Highpark.

San Pedro’s long planned housing development, Highpark (formerly Ponte Vista) has been purchased by a new owner as construction on some 676 homes is finally close to launching after more than a decade of planning and preparation.

Harridge Development Group of Los Angeles has taken ownership of Highpark which is being built on 61.5 acres of land at 26900 S. Western Ave., across from and just south of Green Hills Memorial Park.

The development has changed hands before and the latest purchase was not unexpected as the most recent owner, iStar, was tasked essentially with preparing the site for construction. A vast amount of infrastructure had to be completed before homes could be built. Home “pads” were expected to be sold off to one or more housing developers when the site was ready.

Harridge representatives did not return calls seeking comment. An iStar representative said that company had no comment on the sale.

The project, which once was among the most contentious developments proposed for the port community because of its density issues, has been more than a decade in the works.

Most recently, delays were caused by complicated permits and hookups for utilities, infrastructure groundwork in light of heavy rains during 2016-17. Grading also was delayed in 2015.

Because of those slowdowns, the huge vacant parcel, passed by countless motorists traveling busy Western Avenue every day, has appeared stuck in time for years although underground utility and grading improvements have been ongoing.

The Highpark website lavishly describes the future development as “a timeless gated collection of single-family detached homes, sophisticated townhomes and flats that cater to diverse desires in the heart of the South Bay” that will include a jogging trail, park space, “recreation centers and resort-style amenities.”

According to the company’s website, Harridge develops vacant sites with a focus on creating gathering points for people in and around the projects that go up.

Among developments the company has built are the McCadden Apartments in Hollywood, The Metropolitan (a mixed-use loft and office space project) also in Hollywood, and single family home developments in Silver Lake and in the Melrose district. Another project, The Tramonto, a 53-unit home community with unobstructed ocean views, is planned in the Pacific Palisades.

Rocky start

Highpark, then Ponte Vista, got off to a rocky start 13 years ago when a flurry of debate erupted over the high density numbers that were initially proposed.

After developer Bob Bisno purchased the former Navy housing project in 2005 for $125 in a government surplus property auction, he rolled out a vision to build 2,300 stacked homes.

While Ponte Vista had its supporters among local residents and the area’s chambers of commerce, it drew fierce objections from many others who argued it was too dense for the neighborhood, especially considering the congested daily traffic along Western Avenue.

Two years later, Bisno agreed to reduce the housing number to 1,950 but Los Angeles city planners turned that number down, suggesting only 775 to 886 homes be built. Bisno’s top investor, Credit Suisse Bank, then assumed control but still wanted to build between 1,375 and 1,475 homes on the property.

Investor iStar Financial Inc. took control of the project in 2010 and further reduced the size of the project throughout negotiations that took place in 2012 and 2013.

Finally, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved building 676 (with a possibility of increasing that to 700 but only with subsequent city approvals) in March 2014.

Harridge is expected to pick up the existing timetable for the project as it continues to move forward, with home construction tentatively slated for late this year according to statements issued by iStar in 2017. Before that, homes were tentatively slated to be built in 2016 until delays with utility permits stalled the progress.

Plans also call for 20 acres of public open or park space within the development.

The number of homes has been capped by the city of Los Angeles, although fewer homes could be built under the existing plan.

The new company also could decide to re-name the project.

Originally dubbed Ponte Vista — “bridge view” because the Vincent Thomas Bridge can be seen from the property — iStar Financial Inc. re-branded it Highpark in February 2016.

But the name was quickly derided by many in the community and most still refer to the development as Ponte Vista. Developers defended the Highpark name, saying it was the product of a lengthy branding process done with a marketing team.

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