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Doug Manchester

'Papa Doug' builds legacy and landmarks

From San Diego's bayside front porch to its bucolic backcountry, Doug Manchester continues to build a lasting legacy and create some of the city's most enduring landmarks.

This year, the locally based Manchester Financial Group, and its subsidiaries with 3,000 employees nationwide, have embarked on several ambitious development projects and expect to post revenues in excess of $350 million.

In early October, Manchester Grand Resorts added to its growing portfolio with the opening of the much-ballyhooed $270 million hotel and spa on 380 acres in Penasquitos Canyon Preserve just east of I-5 near Del Mar.

"My proudest business accomplishment of the year was finishing the Grand Del Mar, which will soon become recognized as one of the premier hotels in the world, and certainly the only true five-star in America," said Papa Doug, the nickname he's called by employees, friends and business associates.

The engagement of his youngest daughter and $21 million raised for cancer research are personal milestones that the dedicated family man and generous philanthropist says trump the completion of the lavishly appointed resort.

The posh 249-room Grand Del Mar combines a luxury hotel with palatial residential villas, offering its upscale guests and owners such rich resort experiences as championship golf, spa treatments and fine dining.

According to Thomas Voss, president of the Manchester Grand Resorts, "the new boutique hotel is the master vision of Papa Doug," developer and owner of notable properties including the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina, and the Whitetail Club in McCall, Idaho.

"He has the most discerning eye for high-end elegance and his insights into the luxury segment of the market are evident in the classic architectural style and intricate interior details," said Voss, noting that Manchester has been on site almost daily throughout the more than two-year construction process, personally selecting everything from the handcrafted marble and tile, and tending to the finer points of resort vacationing.

With the new hotel up and running "ahead of room booking projections," Manchester's attention returns to a sweeping $800 million to $1 billion remake of the downtown waterfront. His company has been involved in most of the major bayside improvements built over the last two decades.

In late 2006, the Navy gave Manchester the rights to develop its 14.7-acre parcel bounded by Broadway, Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway in exchange for building a new command headquarters.

According to Manchester, "the project will create a wonderful, vibrant front porch to San Diego." He envisions offices, hotels, restaurants, shops and museum at the site, which has stirred community controversy and faces legal roadblocks.

The California Coastal Commission, he said, "refused to process our application even after the city issued an approval. As a result, we have been forced to seek a declaration relief in federal court to simply ask a judge to decide whether we do or do not have an enforceable agreement."

Describing San Diego as pro-union and anti-business, he cautions: "We need a business-friendly City Council and mayor to move America's Finest City forward."

Esterbrooks is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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