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Fashioning Fashion Island

May 07, 2002

Deirdre Newman

Sterile, uninviting, cold -- these are some of the adjectives used to

describe Fashion Island by the two men who transformed it from a

sprawling beast of a shopping center to an alluring destination.

Daniel Donahue and Thomas Schriber of Donahue Schriber, a private real

estate investment trust, redesigned Fashion Island in the late 1980s

using a blueprint conceived by Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren.

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Today, the two real estate moguls will be honored by the UC Irvine

Graduate School of Management with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their

work at Fashion Island and other shopping centers throughout the county.

"These two were chosen because of their impact on the Orange County

real estate community, both in terms of their projects, their

personalities and their outreach in the community," said Christopher

Davis, director of UCI's program in real estate management.

Donahue and Schriber have a long history together. They first met

working in the loan department of Caldwell Banker in 1965.

Both wanted to do a bit more with their careers. So in 1968, Donahue

broke away and joined John S. Griffith -- a development and management

company. Schriber followed soon after.

Eight years later, they bought the company from its owners but kept

the name because of its established reputation.

"We used smoke and mirrors to make it look like it was a larger,

financially sound company than it was," Donahue said.

By the early 1980s, they felt confident enough to change the name to

reflect the new ownership. Their styles complement each other, they say

-- Schriber gets involved with development and finance, while Donahue

focuses on the creative side and marketing.

By the late '80s, they were well known enough to be invited by the

Irvine Co. to tame the behemoth that Fashion Island had become.

Originally developed in the 1960s with three main department stores,

it had evolved piecemeal with no theme linking the disparate elements,

they said.

"We had lived in Newport Beach and had our offices there," Donahue

said. "We felt we understood what was missing."

Armed with Bren's vision, the pair set about redesigning the center,

adding theatrical elements such as fountains, lighting and new signs to

entice shoppers to mosey down its myriad walkways. They also upped the

percentage of establishments serving food from eight to 24.

Their efforts paid off as Fashion Island has become the heart of

shopping in Newport Beach.

"Donahue and Schriber were instrumental in the planning and execution

of the Fashion Island renaissance of the late '80s and the transformation

of Fashion Island into the town center for Newport Beach it is today,"

said Keith Eyrich, president of retail properties for the Irvine Co.

Both say they are thrilled to receive such a significant award from

the school. The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented annually at the

school's real estate conference.

"I'm honored to be associated with the previous recipients," Schriber

said. "There are a lot of outstanding community leaders."

Donahue Schriber is based in Costa Mesa and owns 55 shopping centers

in California, Arizona and Nevada, and manages six more. The company has

a net worth in excess of $700 million.

Their advice to aspiring real estate developers is simple.

"Focus," Donahue said.

* Deirdre Newman covers education. She may be reached at (949)

574-4221 or by e-mail at o7 deirdre.newman@latimes.comf7 .

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