Mike Harrah

Visionary

Hawaii’s Top Contractors: #15

Developer Michael Harrah’s Pinnacle Condominium project helped Ledcor – US Pacific Construction Inc. Make Building Industry’s Hawaii’s Top 25 Contractors List. Coming in at number 15, Ledcor – US Pacific Construction Inc. broke ground on the Pinnacle and far exceeded revenue increases—coming in at a 75% increase in revenue over the previous years, as opposed to the expected 25%.

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Daredevil Developer

Ambitious downtown Santa Ana building projects are only part of Michael Harrah’s story Called Santa Ana’s patron saint of the arts, Mike Harrah is more than his gruff exterior would suggest. Opening the OC Pavilion Performing Arts Center in 2005 at a cost of $28 million, Harrah has transformed a former bank building into a state of the art music venue that’s showcased such talent as Kenny G, Earth Wind and Fire, and Leann Rimes. Just above the music venue is Ambrosia, a fine dining restaurant the was first opened in the late 1960s on Balboa Peninsula. While Harrah has worked to make downtown Santa Ana arts and entertainment friendly, perhaps his most “saintly” act was his 5-month restoration of a vacant building in order for the Orange County High School of the Arts to keep its charter and open on time. Since the OCHSA’s move from its Los Alamitos location to downtown Santa Ana, Harrah has given the school $1.8 million of his own money and renovated the adjoining building, a former Christian Science church, into a 206-seat performance hall. Harrah is a self-proclaimed “ultimate-risk taker” and the largest tenant improvement contractor in Orange County, but he says it’s never been about the money. He enjoys knowing that he’ll be able to look back and see he gave back to the community.

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The Pinnacle: The New Jewel of Downtown Honolulu

Blessing & Celebration Mark the Start of Construction

The highly regarded Hawaiian reverend, Kahu Kaleo Patterson, offered a traditional Hawaii blessing at the May groundbreaking ceremony of The Pinnacle Honolulu. The Pinnacle has been featured on KHON-TV, Hawaii’s top-rated television station and the nation’s highest rate Fox affiliate. Veteran reporter Leslie Wilcox began with the phrase, “Walk to work” and proceeded to describe the prime location and luxury that supersedes other nearby condominium developments. Instead of “squeezing out more units,” developer Mike Harrah chose to build only 39 spacious and executive units. Harrah described his work, “My plan and my scope of work that I’ve built in the past is high-end luxury. So in this case, we’re not looking to have a bunch of small pigeon-hole type condominiums.” The Pinnacle promises to be a spectacular transformation of an empty parking lot into a skyline jewel.

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Harrah Builds Lavish Theater—With Office Tower in

Originally budgeted at $5 million, the OC Pavilion has been finished with a price tag of $22 million. Owner and developer, Michael Harrah, designed the theater with himself in mind, hence the $3.5 million sound system and the private dining room with an antique Steinway piano. While it’s easy to trace Harrah’s passion for music to his passion for building a premier music venue, Harrah has greater motivation. “It’s part of my master plan to redevelop downtown Santa Ana.” Harrah has said. As he looks to draw tenants to his planned office tower at One Broadway Plaza, Harrah realizes that amenities like restaurants, entertainment venues and even the Orange County High School of the Arts which he helped remodel. Just like a 57 T-Bird, Harrah has tinkered with every aspect of the OC Pavilion, turning what was originally planned to be a modest office building into one of the county’s finest entertainment venues.

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Michael Harrah Orange County’s Renaissance Man


Mike Harrah and his crew live by the motto. “no compromise.” In this article, Jeff Cushing describes the many aspects of Harrah’s storied career. From bringing the London Bridge across the Atlantic then reassembling it in the middle of the Arizona desert to flying his attack helicopter in the movies to developing a major resort property in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Harrah has always believed, “Yeah, I can do that. He’s infused this attitude into his crew and cross-trained as many people as possible. He believes this keeps good people from being idle but more importantly, it increases productivity, keeps down costs, improves profit margins and speeds up completion dates. It’s a win-win proposition for any developer, particularly for Harrah.

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Michael Harrah Orange County’s Renaissance Man

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.”

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The Ultimate Empire

Mike Harrah is unapologetic about his life, “I work hard and I play hard.” Turing his $800,000 profit on a spec home into a company that employs nearly 680 people in four states, Harrah has earned every right to play. Speed boat racing brought Mike Harrah to Lake Havasu, where he now owns the London Bridge and English Village attractions and built the Queens Bay Hotel, a country club, golf course, and shopping mall to complement it. Harrah is also developing resorts in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. At 36, Harrah considers himself far from retiring and is a self-proclaimed “workaholic.” Harrah says, “I’m not a dreamer, but I want to see all this work last, for myself, and most importantly, for everyone on the Harrah team, forever.”

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Mike F. Harrah

MICHAEL F. HARRAH

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