For a real estate developer who's done some notable projects and who's gotten into a scrape or two, Richard Weintraub has managed to keep a fairly low profile.

But that may change soon.

He and his Weintraub Financial Services Inc. are taking on several conspicuous and potentially controversial projects at once including a retail project in developer-averse Malibu, a re-do of the iconic Sportsmen's Lodge Hotel in Studio City and what could be a risky condo project next to the old St. Vibiana Cathedral downtown.

Weintraub, who often works at his home in Malibu, where he lives with his wife and two children on an eight-acre, ocean-front estate just off the Pacific Coast Highway, agreed that he's not only busier than ever but that challenges lie ahead for him. Weintraub does not believe the current financing crisis will hurt him. Still, markets can change and communities can revolt against his projects.

"If we have this conversation six months from now, things might be quite different," said Weintraub, 41.

One thing Weintraub has going for him is tenacity, said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who has known Weintraub nearly two decades. His Vibiana Lofts project is in Perry's district.

"Once he pursues a project he is tenacious," said Perry. "He is doggedly determined to complete the projects he starts."

He may need some determination to see him through his forthcoming projects.

His Malibu Lumber Yard project is the furthest along and may be the easiest. Weintraub and Richard Sperber, president of ValleyCrest Cos., have partnered to develop a two-story, high-end retail center on a 2.7-acre parcel that was formerly a lumber yard at Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road. It will include 15 tenants, mostly high-end clothing stores.

The partners' development entity signed a 54-year ground lease with the city last year. Since Malibu tends to resist development, and to get the project moving along, Weintraub worked with the community. He ensured that local businesses would be tenants at the development, for example.

He said it was important to do a project that the community could be proud of. And it helps that he's a local, saying "there is camaraderie here in Malibu."

"In Malibu I'll go to the movie theater and forget my wallet, and they'll say, 'Just pay us next time,'" Weintraub said. "I wanted to do something that reflects what this community should be and what it is becoming more and more."


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