New face of Downtown Development Project talks about future landscape

News Channel 3 I-Team Investigation

Meet the new man in charge of downtow...

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Construction continues on a new hotel and a number of shops and restaurants in downtown Palm Springs even as a former mayor and two developers prepare to defend themselves against corruption charges.

Michael Braun is the new face of the project, taking over for John Wessman who announced his retirement the day the District Attorney announced the charges in the case.

Wessman is accused of funneling money to former Mayor Steve Pougnet through developer Richard Meaney.

Read more about the Scandal at City Hall

Palm Springs Mayor, Robert Moon, has told News Channel 3 that working with Braun will be much better for the city because Wessman, "can be difficult to work with."

Braun says he's been managing the project for some time, "The fact is, I've been running or been the face of Wessman development for about 18 months as John Wessman decided to focus more on the architecture and detail of the buildings."

Braun admits that John Wessman still stands to gain from the project, even in retirement.  "John Wessman is a passive investor obviously he has an interest in this project," Braun says.

Braun can't say much about the case and won't comment on the mention of his name in court documents.

He is able to give us a tour of the downtown project.

This year, the new Kimpton Hotel will be completed along with more parking and a number of restaurants and shops.  

He estimates that by the end of the year, there will be about $150 million in the project, including a $43 million public investment.

The city is taking ownership of two new public streets, parking garage areas, and a public space in the middle of the project.

Braun says the construction zone feeling of the downtown will change dramatically in just a few weeks, as the hotel nears completion, an extension of Belardo Road is completed, and the fencing begins to come down.

After that,  he'll focus on building the Virgin Hotel which is planned for the development.

Recently, it was revealed that Tommy Bahama and Starbucks are planning to lease space along with H&M, Francesca's, il Corso, and other tenants also on the way by the end of the year.

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