A Message from Robert Dahl Regarding Proposal at Fisherman’s Wharf
Editor’s Note: this guest column was submitted by Robert Dahl, owner of Karls. Karls has proposed to transform Fisherman’s Wharf into a visitor-serving village that is easily accessed by families of all economic backgrounds. The guest column addresses items that concerned residents have shared with Karls. If there is more feedback regarding the Fisherman’s Wharf proposal, please contact the Karls team through the website, www.participate-karls.org
In November 2022, Channel Islands Harbor announced their intent to collaborate with Karls to jointly redevelop the decades-long neglected Fisherman´s Wharf site at the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. Karls thanks everyone for their comments since then. We would like to take the opportunity to clarify some facts and information about Karls.
Karls is a family friendly destination that offers fun and educational experiences to guests within the context of the strawberry and maritime village theme. A typical Karls village is designed around a large central indoor market hall, with restaurants, retail, and live manufacturing shows for freshly made items. There is also an outdoor landscaped area with playgrounds, seating corners, small food stands, and some smaller rides for young children. Karls is not an amusement or theme park and has found its own niche within the retail and entertainment industry.
We are offering this platform for all of you to share your ideas and thoughts. We will keep you, the Oxnard community, updated on the status of the project and you will be able to directly contact our owner, Robert Dahl. We hope this site will enable a lively, transparent, and constructive medium for us to enrich the harbor, Oxnard, and Ventura County.
Karls in not an amusement park. A typical Karls village is designed and planned around a large central indoor market, with restaurants, retail, and live cooking demonstrations of freshly made food. There will also a beautiful outdoor area with manicured landscaping, walking trails to enjoy the harbor views, free playgrounds, seating areas for picnics or just to relax, small food stands and shops that sell roasted coffee, ice cream, and beer. There are also a few smaller rides for young children. The park decorates for different holidays and hosts art exhibits such as sandcastles and ice sculptures. Visiting Karls is like experiencing a story and creates lasting memories.
Karls is a good fit for Fisherman’s Wharf as it will blend the strawberry theme with maritime and nautical themes of the Channel Islands Harbor. Most Karls villages in Germany are within a stone’s throw of the ocean. Maritime culture and agriculture are the two main staples of our home, the same condition you find in Ventura County. This unique combination of the nautical and the agricultural themes can be found in most Karls locations. It is reflected in the design, the retail products, the fresh sea food offerings in the restaurants, and in some of the experiences, like an educational aquarium. Our most prominent seaside location, “Pier 7,” has a new sand carving exhibition every year solely based on maritime themes.
Karls style and aesthetic will act as an inviting entrance and gateway to the Channel Islands Harbor. It is Karls’ full intention to maintain the current iconic Cape Cod feel of the wharf and to maintain most of the existing structures of the property as a base layer for the spirit of the site. The current feel of the entry point will not change much but will be refreshed. Conceptually, Karls’ breadth of offerings to the public will create a worthy destination serving as the entry point to the beautiful harbor.
Karls is an economically viable and sustainable project. Over the last 30 years, Karls has created 7 villages and is planning 12 more in Germany through 2035. All the projects have weathered every economic climate and none of the locations ever had to be closed. Karls is known for its ingenuity, adaptability, and constant drive for reinvention to stay current and sustainable.
Karls villages attract repeat visitors. Karls customers visit a village on average 4.2 times per year, including residents in the immediate area, as well as tourists from further away. Repeat visits are due to the extraordinary number of different experiences one can have, and the overall unique and pleasant atmosphere. Frequent visits are further caused by a constant adjustment of the village’s theme based on the season of the year, as well as entertainment programs changing with it.
Karls style, design, and aesthetics will combine nautical with agricultural themes in a tasteful and thoughtful manner. Karls style needs to be experienced to be understood. It combines a farming theme with elements of both agricultural and maritime worlds expressed through traditional architecture, including half-timbered houses and barns. The success of Karls is based on the ability to tell a story. Karls is aware that the story telling will need to incorporate the local values of Oxnard and local design consultants will help us to overcome this challenge to create a unique Karls in Oxnard.
Karls is a concept for children and adults. Interestingly, Karls’ largest groups of visitors are seniors (60+) and young children (up to 12 years), closely followed by adults 18-60 years of age. Karls offers experiences, activities, food & beverages, and retail products for all age groups.
Karls is a destination for locals and visitors. Karls visitor statistics in Germany indicate about 20% of visitors live within a 10 mile radius, and they visit Karls on average 3.5 times a year. They take advantage of the seasonal program changes for new experiences, or to just have breakfast, lunch, or dinner in one of the many culinary locations within the village. Local residents also love taking their visiting friends to Karls to show them a good time, the food and drink offerings are quite unique.
Karls will not create a traffic burden. Any new economic endeavor at the wharf needs to create traffic of some sort to make the concept viable. However, the beauty of Karls visiting traffic lies within its counter-cyclical nature. The opening hours are usually between 8am and 8pm, with the highest number of visitors reaching Karls around the noon hours. Hence, Karls traffic typically goes against the stream of commuter traffic. Of course, there will be traffic studies during the phase of due diligence.
Karls will have ample parking. Since Karls is a family friendly destination, we pride ourselves on a constant visitor to car ratio of 2.8, meaning for every 28 visitors Karls needs to provide 10 parking spots. Furthermore, initial calculations have revealed that the 10-acre site provides enough space for parking for Karls to be self-sufficient and accommodate all parking needs on site. If necessary, offsite parking in the harbor with a short boat ride to Karls may be an option. It could help with parking and give people a short boat ride. Kids would love it!
Karls will not create excessive noise. Karls and some of its programs create sounds to enhance the experience. Sounds are a sign of vitality. The majority of Karls visitors enjoy the village between 11am and 3pm. There is no operation at night, except possibly the longer opening hours of a restaurant.
Karls staff will primarily employ local residents and provide local jobs. In Germany, Karls employs people from 35 different nations. The initial training and the set-up of the operation in Oxnard will be conducted in partnership with our local team. The actual operation of the Karls village relies highly on local jobs, most of which will be entry-level jobs and add to the economic vitality of the region. During the development and the construction period, Karls will rely heavily on regional talent.
Karls will utilize local strawberries, local products and local purveyors. Karls has no intention to set up strawberry farming businesses in California. Karls will rely heavily on local suppliers for many of the products.
Karls is special and different from large California theme parks. California has some of the greatest theme parks in the world. But Karls is not a theme park and has found its own niche within the retail and entertainment industry. Karls is a family friendly destination that makes food production an entertaining, educational, and meaningful experience to guests within the context of the village theme.
Karls revenue generated will stay in California. Karls’ recipe for success is to re-invest the revenue generated into the constant development and improvement of the villages and to invest in future locations.
Karls is a safe place to visit. In all the years of Karls’ operation in Germany there have been no documented cases of violence by the visitors. Regarding concerns about teenage gangs loitering and causing trouble, in our experience that adolescents (between the ages of 14 and 20) do not typically like to visit Karls. Nevertheless, we are planning meetings with the local police department, the harbor patrol, and security services to speak about the topic of safety in the context of the Karls development.
Karls is a long-term partner and a beneficial business for the Channel Islands Harbor. Like any other new business there is a risk of failure with new projects. However, Karls’ track record is that none of the locations in Germany have ever had to be closed and have consistently grown. Karls would enter a long-term lease of at least 20 years with Ventura County. By the terms of the lease, Karls commits to responsibilities when turning over the site after the lease runs out and faces legal repercussions if an abandonment of any sort occurs.
Karls will work collaboratively with local businesses. Karls has already spoken with most of the local non-profit organizations and businesses at the wharf to creatively integrate them into the Karls concept. Further details will be developed during the next phase. We see a symbiotic relationship ahead that will benefit the business and the community.
Karls is an investor that wants to invest in Oxnard. Once Karls sets feet on the ground in California, the business will be established in Oxnard and hence will be an Oxnard tax-paying enterprise. Yes, the funds for the initial development will come from Germany. We admire the US for being an economic melting pot of the world’s best talent and businesses, many of which have a non-US background. We also believe that we can deliver a high value to the community and economic ecosystem, as much as a local developer. We want to become your local partner.
Karls has an emotional connection to Oxnard and the region. The emotional connection is one of the main reasons why Karls chose to create a flagship location in Oxnard. As the largest strawberry grower in Germany, the Karls family has been visiting Oxnard (the strawberry capital of the world) for decades to learn about the strawberry and connect with local farmers and residents. Karls in Germany would not be same without the experiences gained in Oxnard.