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Wolff: Angels land deal makes economic sense

Anaheim development plan Angels June 2020

A constant criticism of the recent sale of the land surrounding Angel Stadium is that Anaheim didn’t receive anything close to one estimate of the land’s worth. But veteran developer Lew Wolff says the price was fair for both sides.

This week the Anaheim City Council finalized the sale of the 153-acre Angel Stadium site to an investment group led by Angels owner Arne Moreno, priced at $150 million in cash and $170 million in community benefits. Originally the transaction was valued at $325 million, but $5 million was taken out of the deal because the city is retaining land for a fire station. The $320 million deal has been criticized for being negotiated in private, but it does meet city goals for including affordable housing as part of the mix–the $170 million in community benefits is a big part 0f the deal–and it keeps the Angels in town.

Two city council members voted agains the sale, arguing that the land is worth $500 million, as one evaluator estimated. Former Mayor Tom Tait–who strenuously opposed previous efforts by the Angels to develop the property–and two other elected officials argue that the negotiations for the land sale were done in private and that the city is accepting far less for the land than what it could attract on the open market.

Nonsense, says Lew Wolff, the former Oakland A’s managing partner who worked for years on a new ballpark project. Wolff was an advisor to Moreno and his investment group. His A’s leadership stint was surely important, but more so is his experience as a long-term real-estate developer: he and his investors created the downtown San Jose we know today.

The $500 million figure continually cited by opponents is pure fantasy, he tells Bill Shaikin: that was predicated on tearing down Angel Stadium and allowing the team to leave town, and it ignores the failure of previous efforts to sell 40 acres of the Angel Stadium property. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has slowed but not halted big development efforts, and you have a situation where the city was right in taking the offer on the table and not waiting years for a better one.

Moreno’s development firm, SRB Management, has proposed a mixed-use development plan like the one employed at SunTrust Park and The Battery, including 1.1 million square feet of retail and bars/restaurants, apartments (including 466 units of affordable) and housing, 5,175 residential units, 2.7 million square feet of office space, hotel and services in the mix. The sale includes the 20-acre Angel Stadium site and an additional 133 acres comprising 12,500 parking spaces for games and events, City National Grove of Anaheim, a 1,700-seat theater.

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