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By Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

On Tuesday, March 9, officials representing Raintree Partners and City of Dana Point celebrated the reopening of the street of Amber Lantern after four years of its closure and surrounding construction.

The street between Del Prado Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway in the Lantern District had been closed off as Raintree Partners—an Orange County-based private commercial real estate investment company—worked to construct the Prado West vision of apartments, community amenities, and on-site retail. The 32,500-square-foot, mixed-used project will have 109 units, with three stories and two levels of subterranean parking.

While Jason Check, the managing director for Raintree Partners, says he’s relieved to finally have the street open again, the extensive closure was the cost of “doing it right.”

“Part of the reason it was shut down for as long as it was, was the effort to expand parking, making it so it was compatible with what the community wanted,” Check said. “We worked with proponents of Measure H to really refine our plan to address some of the bigger concerns … not out of requirement, but to be more receptive.”

In 2016, residents voted in favor of Measure H, which enacted regulation of development in the town center area, including a strict height limit of 40 feet, restrictions designed to ensure certain levels of available parking and the requirement that voters approve any changes to the Town Center Plan.

Raintree Partners and City of Dana Point officials celebrated the reopening of the street of Amber Lantern on Tuesday, March 9. Photo: JPVSPHOTO

“We very much wanted this to be a creative, collaborative effort and discussion,” Check added.

As is the case for most businesses and developers, the coronavirus pandemic also threw hurdles at Raintree and its tenants. Check says that creativity and collaboration have extended to figuring out how to preserve and strengthen local businesses.

“We recently helped Salon Revelation relocate to our recently renovated office building at 34052 La Plaza, when it would have otherwise had to leave the city,” Check said. “When COVID hit, we worked closely with the owner on rent abatement and permitting assistance to keep her business viable.”

Check remains optimistic for business development in Dana Point. Raintree Partners announced this month that Giana Bakery + Provisions, a new restaurant from Maison Café + Market owner Chef Danielle Kuhn, will open in Dana Point this year.

Raintree Partners had acquired the 5,000-square-foot building on Pacific Coast Highway, formerly Aurora’s Market, in November 2018, and through ongoing collaboration with Kuhn is rehabilitating and repositioning the property for this new use.

“When the building became available upon the previous owner’s retirement, we saw an opportunity to invest in revitalizing the property and working with Danielle to bring something fresh to the market that would also be complementary to Prado West,” Check said.

Giana Bakery + Provisions will sit adjacent to Prado West on PCH, between Amber Lantern and Violet Lantern.

“Our team got to know Chef Danielle after relocating our headquarters to Dana Point,” Check said. “After I first met Danielle, it immediately became clear why she is so beloved by the local community. It is exciting to work with her on revitalizing this old building and helping her make this vibrant new concept a reality.”

Chef Danielle Kuhn, owner of Maison Café + Market, plans to open Giana Bakery + Provisions in the space formerly occupied by Aurora’s Taqueria on Pacific Coast Highway. Photo: Courtesy of Brower Group

Kuhn opened her restaurant Maison Café + Market in 2019.

While the plans to bring Giana to the space were in place well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Check says that Kuhn’s resilience and creativity throughout the unprecedented landscape of 2020 solidified that she was the ideal partner for the project.

“Now more than ever, I understand the deep importance of having a partner that is willing to listen and do what it takes to support our mutual success,” said Kuhn.

Giana Bakery + Provisions, which is planned to open in summer 2021, will offer fresh baked breads and pastries, an Italian deli, a full-service dining room, and wine bar. It will be located at 34146 Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point.

Raintree Partners also purchased a vacant lot adjacent to Giana and, with Kuhn’s help, they are transforming the space into Gigi’s Garden. This will be an outdoor garden dining experience that will also be used as an event space, to grow in-house produce, and host cooking and gardening classes. It will also feature a trailer converted into a kitchen and portable bar.

“Our partnership with Danielle is part of the Raintree team’s ongoing commitment, as members of the local community ourselves, to bringing exceptional small businesses to Dana Point and keeping them in town, especially through difficult times,” said Check.

The development milestones come as Dana Point Harbor Partners moves forward in its $300 million investment in the harbor’s revitalization and as city officials work toward updating the Doheny Village Plan.

Check also points to new Lantern Village restaurants such as Rad Brat Brewery, Station Craft Brewing, and Dana Point Ale House, which opens at Prado West this summer. Further, Raintree is also working with the city to create an outdoor Biergarten, public art venue, and seating area on a 5,000-square-foot vacant lot purchased in 2019 next to Prado West.

“This ongoing investment into existing and new businesses will continue to increase Dana Point’s appeal as a premier South Orange County destination,” Check said. “This is a transformative and exciting time to invest in Dana Point.”

With the Prado West site on Amber Lantern having opened, Check says more openings will come by summer time, including a public courtyard.

For information on commercial leasing, contact Justin McMahon with JLL at justin.mcmahon@am.jll.com. Information on residential preleasing can be found at pradowest.com.

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