It’s finally all systems ‘go’ for a large-scale project that began with the demolition of a longtime riverfront business, Topock Marina, in October 2010. The business had been operating for 50 years.
Topock 66 Spa & Resort property owner Chet Hitt, of Apple Valley, Calif., said he has a vision of a near $14 million resort, a vision that is slowly, but surely becoming a reality, he said.
“I had to split the project into two phases,” Hitt said. “And you can quote me. I’ve had my ass kicked,” Hitt said. “But I never quit. And that’s just being defiant. You’ve got to just keep plugging away at it.”
Last year, the project’s seawall construction was approved by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Construction permits were purchased and financing was secured –—only for the project to be stalled, yet again, by Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The purchase of the project’s construction permits alerted, or included, a review by FEMA. The federal flood plain regulator’s “blue line” deemed the proposed project’s elevation to be within a federally recognized flood plain.
“It’s the same elevation, but one is in the flood plain and one isn’t,” Hitt said. “I had to raise the retail building 11 feet (to comply with FEMA regulations). It was a complete redesign of the restaurant, bar and retail shop.”
The delay cost Hitt his pre-arranged bank financing for the entire project, which is ringing in at $13.8 million, he said. Now, Hitt has split the project. The first phase is the restaurant, bar and gift shop and pegged at about $3.8 million. The second is the hotel and upgraded marina, which is anticipated to be about $10 million.
Currently, the seawall is being completed. In a week or so, the footings for phase one will be set. In 60 days, infrastructure, followed by groundbreaking for the retail and restaurant.
The project’s phase one is on track to open March 1, 2012, according to www.topock66.com.
Hitt said Thursday financing for the hotel, or the second phase of construction, should be nailed down within the next 90 days.
Last year, the marina was successfully dredged. And the marina has remained open to the public, and will continue to remain open. In phase two of the project, the marina’s launch ramp will be widened and repaired.
“Of all my projects, this has been the toughest,” Hitt stated on the resort’s website. “Our family has invested just about everything we have to make this thing come to life. I never anticipated that when we tore down the old Marina, the economy would take a dive, and we would run into some of the federal permit issues that we have.”
The proposed project includes a 102-room hotel with amenities that include a spa, motorcycle or watercraft rentals, kayak or off-road excursions, a conference center, barbecue smokehouse, microbrewery, nightclub, boardwalk, kid’s play area, wedding packages and the largest Route 66 memorabilia gift shop in the region.
Hitt purchased the ramshackle resort spot in 2008. He embraced promoting it as the “worst boat launch ramp” and “worst building” on the river. The new resort project includes old structural wooden beams from the original Needles Bridge, a refurbished bronze dedication for a Route 66 bridge from yesteryear and many of the customer photo posters tacked to the walls and ceiling of Topock Marina’s old bar.
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