Here, we take a look at Porcupine Creek. a Rancho Mirage luxury golf course and residence.
Billionaire Larry Ellison, one of the world’s wealthiest individuals who owns the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and the BNP Pariabas Open, appears to be expanding his business empire in the desert.
Ellison is planning to transform his exclusive Porcupine Creek home and golf course in Rancho Mirage into an elite hideaway for the rich.
Porcupine Creek Retreat is a proposed resort with up to 50 units that promises a “six-star, exclusive guest experience,” according to its website.
“When approved, these plans will place Rancho Mirage among the ranks of the world’s most desirable health and wellness destinations,” according to a statement sent to The Desert Sun on behalf of the ownership.
Ellison bought the compound — which he used as a vacation home and has functioned as the “home quarters” during the BNP Paribas tennis tournament — for a reported $43 million in 2011, after it was originally listed for $75 million.
The celebrated golf course on the 240-acre site was originally developed by former billionaire owner Tim Blixseth, who obtained the land in a property swap after he was unable to secure federal approval to develop property by the same name in Montana.
Porcupine Creek has a history of hosting rich and powerful guests, including President Barack Obama who visited in 2014 and in 2017. In late February, Ellison hosted a fundraiser there for President Donald Trump with ticket prices starting at $100,000.
Documents detailing the proposed project were filed with the city of Rancho Mirage in April and are being reviewed by the planning department. Developers say on the project website they’re hoping an environmental impact report will be completed this fall, with work at the property beginning in 2021.
The proposal to transform a private property into a commercial resort could further the desert’s reputation as a high-end destination for elite travelers — but it will require the review of Rancho Mirage city officials, who will have to make changes to current zoning to allow the plan to move forward.
The project website doesn’t indicate why Ellison has decided to open a resort at his vacation home. And it doesn’t address the timing of launching a luxury-level project during a coronavirus pandemic that has closed international borders and stunted the travel industry.
But developers are emphasizing how the project could aid the reputation of Rancho Mirage.
“Repositioning will open the property exclusively to health and wellness enthusiasts placing Rancho Mirage among the world’s most desirable retreat destinations,” the website says.
Once described in a Christie’s real estate listing as “an international trophy property,” Porcupine Creek sitsin a cove about half a mile southwest off Highway 111 at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains. It’s just west of the Magnesia Falls Cove neighborhood near Rancho Mirage Elementary School.
The property already has a main estate, casitas and guest villas. Since taking ownership in 2011, Ellison has added 18,000 square feet to the site’s total building footprint with spa treatment rooms, a tennis pavilion, a fitness center, a gatehouse and new villas, according to city planning documents.
Development of the Retreat won’t involve any new land acquisition and will require “minimal new construction,” the website says. The proposal will incorporate 23 existing studio, single-bedroom and multi-room units, with up to 50 keys that could be added to the property in incremental construction phases, according to the project website.
Porcupine Creek encompasses 230 acres, but the Retreat project is about 191 acres, with some property left as open space.
Available documents don’t include renderings of what the property will look like, nor do the plans detail pricing information, but all signs point to the development of something meant for the wealthy and powerful.
Guests would have access to “extraordinary grounds, outstanding golf and tennis facilities, premium spa and wellness programs, and exceptional food and personalized services,” according to a statement sent to The Desert Sun.
“It is anticipated that the Retreat will draw a small stream of very affluent health- and wellness-conscious visitors with minimal community impacts, and offer Rancho Mirage an exceptional opportunity for enhanced international prestige as well as increased tourism and sales tax revenues,” the owners said in a statement.
Ellison was not immediately available for comment.
In order for the project to move forward, the city of Rancho Mirage will have to sign off on zoning changes.
The estate was initially entitled and constructed in 1997 as a single-family compound with various amenities, according to planning documents uploaded to the Rancho Mirage website. The city’s zoning map designates the general area as “private open space” while there are pockets of “very low density” residential.
Hotels in Rancho Mirage are subject to a 10% transient occupancy tax on room rates,but in order to have that and sales tax revenue transmitted to the city, the area will need to be rezoned.
The next step in the process is an environmental impact report that will address allowable uses at the property. The process will start at the end of August and could take one to three months to be completed.
That report also will examine what impact the proposed developments on the property would have on traffic patterns, noise, air quality, energy use, water quality, and runoff and overall land use.
“Once prepared and reviewed, the Draft EIR will be circulated for public review,” said Rancho Mirage Director of Marketing Gabe Codding in an email.
The city’s planning documents on the project say it also will require a development agreement.
The project then will have to go before the Architectural Review Board, and be the subject of public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Rancho Mirage City Council, which has the final say in approving the project.
The website says developers will aim to “seamlessly” blend the Retreat into the neighborhood.
And they don’t anticipate any major traffic impact, noting how guests will have an all-inclusive experience where they’ll likely stay on the property during their visit.
“The project team welcomes input from the community and looks forward to working with all stakeholders to create a world-class Retreat that brings noteworthy prestige and economic growth to Rancho Mirage,” the Porcupine Creek Retreat website says.
People with questions on the project can leave a message at 760-833-0587 or email email@example.com, Codding said. The project website is www.porcupinecreek.com.
Can’t read the document? Here’s a link to the full-size version
A one-of-a-kind property
Mayor Pro Tem Ted Weill said the property is a one-of-a-kind proposal that matches the “style and panache” of Rancho Mirage.
“It’s the ultimate luxury done in a first-class manner and it’s consistent with the image and the style of Rancho Mirage,” Weill said in a phone interview Tuesday.
And he expressed faith in the ability for the project to get completed, noting Ellison’s place as one of the wealthiest people in the world.
“To get financing for a hotel today is a Herculean task,” he said. “in this case, you have an individual who has the financial resources to do it.”
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While the coronavirus pandemic has halted significant amounts of leisure travel, Weill said the Porcupine Creek Retreat would cater to an affluent clientele, similar to that of The Golden Door in San Marcos.
“Anybody that can afford this kind of luxury is pretty much in a position that they’re going to be able to overcome a kind of hardship that many of us cannot,” Weill said.
Even before Ellison bought the property, Porcupine Creek had a reputation as a top-ranked golf course and estate that was the site of events for many of Blixseth’s moneyed and high-profile contemporaries, including fundraisers for Republican candidates like Dan Quayle and Rep. Mary Bono.
Weill, who has golfed there, said it’s an “absolute magnificent course” that’s been exceptionally well-maintained.
“I defy you to find a blade of grass out of place,” Weill said.
This story includes previous reporting from Larry Bohannan. Melissa Daniels covers business in the Coachella Valley. She can be reached at (760)-567-8458, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @melissamdaniels.
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