November 24, 2014
McAllister Ranch project back on track

An artist's rendering of the McAllister Ranch property golf course, as seen from the clubhouse terrace. Artist rendering provided by SunCal.

BY JOHN COX, The Bakersfield Californian

McAllister Ranch, the southwest Bakersfield residential development project stalled by the housing collapse, is back on the table - still with an 18-hole Greg Norman golf course, but now on 600 acres instead of 2,070.

Irvine-based developer SunCal said Monday it plans to exercise a years-old option to buy the property from the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District by late April and market the property to home builders by the end of 2015.

"The option ends in May 2015, so we're obviously approaching a milestone point and we want to move the project forward," SunCal spokesman Joe Aguirre said.

The revised project will contain about 1,100 homes, Aguirre said. Initially the project was planned to have about 6,000 homes some six miles west of Highway 99 along Panama Lane.

McAllister Ranch became an icon of developer ambitions during the housing boom that came to a painful end in 2006-07. New York investment bank Lehman Brothers was a financial partner on the project until the company went belly up in 2008, contributing to the global financial crisis.

The project was stuck in bankruptcy until SunCal, the original master developer, bought the property in 2011 along with two developments in Riverside County.

But the company then sold the property to the water storage district, which agreed to extend SunCal the option of buying back the eastern 600 acres of it.

District General Manager Eric Averett said ownership of that parcel will return to SunCal if the company pays about $2.5 million before May. He added that the transaction will not impact the district's plan to create a water storage project on the remaining 1,400 acres.

"I would be surprised if they didn't exercise" the option, he said.

Infrastructure already in existence at the site includes utility connections, road work and grading. But because SunCal is not a home builder, it plans to sell lots for construction of residential units, Aguirre said.

An aerial photograph of the McAllister Ranch property, courtesy of SunCal.

An aerial photograph of the McAllister Ranch property, courtesy of SunCal.