Could it be that at long last – after more than a decade and three ownership changes – work is about to begin on redevelopment of the shuttered Robinsons-May department store in Beverly Hills?

BH Wilshire International Ltd., the Coral Gables, Fla., developer of the property, said last week that demolition of the old department store and adjoining parking structure is set to begin this summer. Groundbreaking on two luxury condo towers is slated to take place during the first half of next year.

But such pronouncements have been made before. Indeed, this is the third try to develop the 8-acre site – considered one of the most valuable in all of Los Angeles County because of its location between Beverly Hills’ Golden Triangle and Century City. Federated Department Stores sold the site to New Pacific Realty in 2004 for $23.5 million and closed the Robinsons-May store in 2006. New Pacific, a Beverly Hills developer, also proposed to build luxury midrise condos, but then sold off the parcel to Candy & Candy, a London development company run by brothers Christian and Nick Candy, near the height of the market for a whopping $500 million.

In 2008, the city of Beverly Hills approved plans calling for two towers of 14 to 16 stories with 235 luxury condos and 16,400 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurants. Candy & Candy estimated construction would cost $600 million and would take 30 months.

But the company ran into trouble with the 2008 collapse of the financial markets as its equity partner on the project, Kaupthing Bank of Iceland, filed for bankruptcy protection. Candy & Candy defaulted on a $365 million loan and the property was put up for auction by creditor Grupo Financiero Inbursa, run by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu.

In 2011, Joint Treasure International, a Hong Kong-centered investment group, purchased the property from Inbursa for $149 million. Joint Treasure soon announced it would revive the approved development plans, with demolition set for 2012 and construction beginning in 2013. Joint Treasure also brought in additional investors and set up BH Wilshire as the development entity for the site.

But BH Wilshire encountered additional delays, including this latest dispute with the Los Angeles Country Club over the golf fence.

More delays are possible: BH Wilshire must still get construction permits from the city of Beverly Hills. As a result, the company declined to give a target date for completion.

– Howard Fine

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