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Caribou Industries Keeps Santa Ana Top of Mind

Mike Harrah fell in love with Santa Ana as a young boy.

“It was the first place where I saw high-rise buildings, which really impressed me as a child in the ’60s,” Harrah told the Business Journal.

Today, the CEO of Caribou Industries Inc. is working on multiple projects that will add to Santa Ana’s skyline and give back to the city that captured his heart as a kid.

Caribou, which has acquired, renovated and developed over 5 million square feet in Santa Ana and Hawaii, earlier this month received approval from the city of Santa Ana for a multifamily project that’s over four years in the making.

The company has spent some $5.6 million on building permits for the mixed-use development, dubbed 3rd and Broadway Promenade.

Construction for 3rd and Broadway Promenade is expected to begin second quarter next year, according to officials. The projected delivery date is third quarter of 2025.

A smaller, passion project in Santa Ana is also in the planning stages for Harrah.

That development, named El Niño, is a proposed training center for boxing and baile folklórico, a traditional style of dance that can be traced back to the indigenous people of Mexico.

The center will target low-income students, whose families may not be able to afford other more costly extracurricular, after-school programs.

Harrah plans to invest about $3 million into the facility; a clear timeline has not been set.

“This will keep local kids off the streets and steer them away from gangs and drugs,” Harrah said. “It’ll allow kids to broaden their horizon as to what they might want to be—it might change their idea of a future vocation.”

Caribou Industries, one of 79 companies featured in this week’s Companies That Care Special Report, this year donated $350,000 to organizations based in Orange County, a large sum of which went to educational programs. Harrah is a large supporter of the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) and Orange County Educational Arts Academy (OCEAA).

Incentivizing Good Grades

Harrah is currently on the hunt for El Niño’s home.

He’s hoping to purchase a building in Santa Ana that he can donate to the facility’s program managers, he said.

In plans, El Niño spans 15,000 square feet, with a mixed martial arts gym, weight room and dance studio.

Membership to the center’s youth programs will depend on the grades they get.

Students that score a B-plus and above on their report cards will be able to attend the program for free. Students with grades lower than a B-plus will have to pay a monthly membership fee of $25.

The lower a student’s grade, the more their membership will cost, with $75 being the most a member can pay monthly, according to Harrah.

“It’s my idea to encourage them to do well in school,” Harrah said. “Like, you need to eat your dinner before you can have dessert.”

Past School Projects

El Niño aims to be an expansion of Caribou Industries’ impact on education in Santa Ana.
Harrah previously designed, built and financed the campus for charter school OCSA, which was completed in 2000.

Caribou Industries also designed and built the campus for OCEAA, which enrolls students from kindergarten to eighth grade. That campus was completed in 2003.

Harrah has sat in on multiple classes at OCEAA, whose unique programs include two-way bilingual immersion.

The teaching method, which Harrah witnessed in person, combines native English and Spanish speakers in a class, so both groups of students can be first language models and second language learners for each other.

“It’s very cool to see first graders switch languages,” Harrah said. “It’s meant to enhance their learning skills.”

Other youth programs Harrah supports include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast and KidWorks, which provides mentorship and leadership development programs for OC’s underprivileged youth.

Educational programming is just one area of Harrah’s whole philanthropic footprint, but it is a cause Harrah holds near and dear to his heart because “today’s youth are tomorrow’s future,” he said.

“I want to support all aspects of education, especially so I can help those who can’t afford it,” he added.

3rd and Broadway

Caribou Industries’ 3rd and Broadway Promenade is one of two multifamily projects the company has lined up for Santa Ana.

That development calls for a 16-story, 171-unit apartment building, a 75-room hotel and about 13,500 square feet of retail in downtown Santa Ana.

It’s also less than a mile away from Caribou Industries’ long-planned One Broadway Plaza, which is now proposing 468 apartment homes, 100,000 square feet of high-rise office and 50,000 square feet of amenities including restaurants, a theater and a heliport landing site.

Caribou Industries is currently in the midst of changing the project’s zoning from commercial to residential and hopes to break ground on the project in the next two years.

To him, the timing of both Santa Ana projects “couldn’t be more perfect,” he said in reference to the growing preference toward pedestrian-friendly spaces over automotive-dominant areas.

The area around 3rd and Broadway Promenade touts a walkability score of 97% and is in close proximity to the city’s new light rail system, according to officials.

“Driving cars, buying houses, mowing lawns and cleaning pools don’t seem to be what people want anymore,” Harrah said. “Our projects will usher in that new lifestyle.”

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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