Michael Harrah One Man’s Blueprint PDF Print E-mail

How visionary developer Michael Harrah rescued Orange County’s biggest city from urban blight

This article tracks Mike Harrah’s involvement with development in Santa Ana, starting with his first real estate deal in the early 1990’s, a midrise at the corner of Main and 17th street.  While Harrah was excited to finally be involved in Santa Ana real estate, he didn’t realize that a mass exodus from the county seat was quietly underway.  While other tenants considered moving to nearby Irvine, Harrah worked fast.  He plunged into the developing economic disaster scene, buying up bank foreclosures, renovating them then filling them with government tenants by offering lower rents than their current contracts. Once he was on solid footing with his office tenants, Harrah set to work renovating some of the best historical buildings downtown.  He transformed the Santa Ana Masonic Temple, built in 1930, into the Santa Ana Performing Arts and Event Center and renovated the white marble-clad Bank of America building into the OC Pavilion, another performing arts venue that includes a new version of Ambrosia, a gourmet restaurant with a long lineage in Orange County.   In downtown Santa Ana, Harrah has been able to combine his love for jazz drumming and the arts with his commitment to architectural redevelopment.  Harrah has created a cultural environment ready for the next level of development and is preparing the break ground of his largest project yet, a 37-story class A office building located at One Broadway Plaza.

Read More in the September 14, 2006 issue of OC Metro