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Mendocino's Heritage House reopens

  • Visitors tour the grounds of the Heritage House in Little River in 2008. (PD File)

The iconic Heritage House reopened Monday, more than five years after financial and legal woes shuttered the resort overlooking the rugged Mendocino Coast.

“It's been a long time,” said Denis Ferguson, who manages the 37-acre resort in Little River for Heritage House LP, owned by Florida billionaire real estate entrepreneur Jeff Greene.

Greene is a onetime Florida Senate candidate who in 2006 foresaw the housing bubble, allowing him to make a fortune betting against subprime mortgages. He purchased Heritage House in March 2012 for about $8 million, nearly $20 million less than the price sought at a foreclosure auction in 2008.

Greene then initiated a multimillion dollar renovation that won't be completed until March or April, said Ferguson.

“Mr. Greene is not sparing any expenses,” he said.

Only 15 of the resort's 70 rooms are available this week and all are spoken for, Ferguson said. The popular resort has many repeat customers who have anxiously awaited its reopening during the years of closure.

The resort's restaurant, which features a locally grown, organic menu, also is open.

Thirty rooms will be ready for occupancy next week and the rest are expected to be ready for guests in January, Ferguson said. The prices of the rooms and suites range from $175 to $800 a night, Ferguson said.

Renovations include structural work to shore up all of the buildings' foundations and remodel their interiors. There also will be three new structures, Ferguson said.

The finished facility will provide a high-quality, full-service experience without the stuffiness of a luxury resort, he said.

The resort first opened in 1949 after Lauren Dennen converted the original 1877 New England-style farmhouse into a small inn. It grew over time to include dozens of cottages and was once rated among the best resorts.

It is famous as the setting for the 1978 film “Same Time, Next Year,” starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.

In 1998, former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor, the widow of Jack-in-the-Box founder R.O. Peterson, purchased the resort, which flourished under her care. But it fell on hard times after it was purchased in 2005 by Lantana Mendocino LLC.

In 2008, the corporation owed $27 million it could not repay to a German bank and co-owner David Wilk was charged with misappropriation of public funds and grand theft embezzlement for failing to pay $300,000 in bed taxes to the county. The charges were dropped the following year when he agreed to pay the county about $210,000.

Ferguson said the resort will be at its best when renovations, including a wellness center and spa, are complete.

“We are respecting the incredible history of the property of the past,” he said. “What it needs to have is a long history ahead of it.”

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