The Story of Big Mike PDF Print E-mail

Mike Harrah is a daredevil and a developer. Sometimes, he is both at once. Now, he wants to make a lasting mark in Hawaii

Mike Harrah can’t help but make a big impression.  He’s 6’6, 300 pounds and, as numerous writers including this article’s Scott Radway have noticed, he looks like “an oversize, high energy member of ZZ Top.”  At the time of publication, Harrah was looking to make a big impression once again, this time on the Honolulu skyline.  The Pinnacle Honolulu is a 36-story luxury condominium tower located at 1199 Bishop Street.  With only one to two units per floor and a penthouse suite taking up the top two stories, prices started at $800,000 and quickly sold.  In this article, Harrah was quoted as saying, “At the end of the day, I want everyone to take a look back and say, ‘That is a Mike Harrah project.’ It is superiorly built, it’s a great value, and it is a one-of-a-kind landmark.’”   The Pinnacle project wasn’t Harrah’s first foray into Hawaii—right after his high school graduation he and a buddy bought one-way tickets to Hawaii, planning on living the penultimate beach bum lifestyle.  Six months of picking pineapples for 67-cents an hour and he scraped together the money to fly stand-by home.  Harrah built a successful career as a real estate developer and by 1980 was ready to take another chance on Hawaii. After working on The Kawai Beach Boy Resort for 2 months without getting paid, Harrah tried to buy the resort, but politics clouded the deal.  Harrah finished the work and walked away from Hawaii once more.  The Pinnacle project was his successful return to Hawaiian development.

Read More in the May 2007 Hawaii Business 


The Quintessential Self Made Man: Michael Harrah PDF Print E-mail

He was penniless when he first resolved to buy a jet. Not anymore.

Thirty five years after launching his career with nothing but competitive zeal and a carpenter’s tool kit, Michael Harrah is the sole owner of Caribou Industries, a major development corporation which has built and managed restaurants, high-rise offices, hotels, golf courses, shopping malls, convention centers and other properties across the western United States. Harrah’s interest in aviation began in 1976 when he saw a simple, “Learn to Fly--$25” ad, took an introductory flight and was hooked. He worked his way up from a Cessna 310 to a 421B, buying and flying a number of planes along the way, all in the course of a couple months.   He now owns a Gulfstream IV and five helicopters, including a Cobra combat helicopter he’s flown in a number of blockbuster Hollywood films.  While Harrah loves flying, he also sees how owning a jet and helicopters makes a statement.  In this interview, he tells a story of flying to San Francisco, picking up his loan officer and flying to Lake Havasu where he had a helicopter parked.  They transferred to the helicopter and Harrah flew across the river where the pair had a great dinner in Harrah’s restaurant. He says, “I had a loan commitment for $13 million that same night. I think he was fairly impressed.”

Read More in the January 2007 Business Jet Traveler 


Divine Intervention PDF Print E-mail

The sweet taste of downtown Santa Ana’s comeback begins with Ambrosia

According to Dining Out magazine, “Before its recent facelift, downtown Santa Ana would not have conjured any associations with ambrosia, the mythical food of the deities purported to render immortality to those who consumed it. These days, the nectar of the gods and the rebirth of downtown Santa Ana go hand in hand.” This article charts the history of the restaurant Ambrosia, beginning with its 1970’s incarnation of the Balboa Peninsula.  Now, Mike Harrah has reopened the restaurant in downtown Santa Ana as part of his OC Pavilion Performing Arts Theater.  Since its humble beginnings in a beach cottage, Ambrosia has come a long way.  Today, guests are treated to a magnificent dining venue run by Executive Chef Jean Marie Josselin, owner of restaurant 808 in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.  Flawless team service, live jazz and art reminiscent of the art deco era all serve to enhance the extraordinary dining experience.  Ambrosia respects the fine-dining philosophy if a past era and provides cuisine worthy of any five-star palate.

Read More in the Summer 2006 Dining Out Magazine 


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 


Ambrosia: an icon Reborn PDF Print E-mail

The re-creation of an Orange County classic in downtown Santa Ana

OC Metro dining critic, Patrick Mott, calls Ambrosia “unapologetically sumptuous.”  Mike Harrah has reopened Ambrosia, the fine dining restaurant which locals remember from its heyday on the Balboa Peninsula, and spared no expense.   Located above Harrah’s $21-million OC Pavilion, Ambrosia is upscale, old school fine dining.  This article details just a few of the menu’s offerings and raves about the perfectly balanced Bibb lettuce salad, succulent filet mignon and French vanilla bean ice cream topped with strawberry slices, caramelized pear and a red wine and prune reduction sauce.  Ambrosia is located at 801 N. Main St. in downtown Santa Ana and is led by Chef Jean Marie Josselin, owner of 808 restaurant at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  
Read More in the September 14, 2006 issue of OC Metro


Page 2 of 4