Jim Watkins locally recognized for being a visionary, also equally a dreamer. Overall, leaving behind legendary footprints throughout the city of Del Mar for more than 50 years.
Beginning with his creation of local L’Auberge Resort Hotel and Spa, Including the development of nine additional resorts located along the California Coast. Watkins became highly recognized in the community.
Ultimately, becoming the first to introduce vacation ownership with resorts in California. His company, Winners Circle Resorts International was, as a result, became the leading vacation ownership resort developer nationwide in the 80s.
Carlsbad Inn historically recognized as the first mixed-use resort in the timeshare hospitality industry. resulted in, subsequently credited for the revitalization of the Carlsbad downtown village.
Immediately, after graduating from The University of Oregon, as well as serving in Korea. Watkins obtained his contractor’s license which ultimately, he became a major player for developing over 1000 homes, 20 apartment homes, and multiple hotels while still in his 20s.
In 1967, he relocated to Del Mar with wife Carol and their four children: Kit, Kris, Jim Jr., and KC.
In 1965 Interstate 5 opened essentially bypassing Del Mar. The Village became a ghost town, Causing devastation to the local economy.
Mayor Tom Pearson asked if Jim could provide economic analysis and vision of how to revitalize the village. That challenge began his 50-year love affair with Del Mar.
Entitled simply, “Why Del Mar”, the study concluded that Del Mar’s greatest potential was simply to build on and enhance Del Mar’s unique history and Village Character.
Jim’s enthusiasm for Del Mar’s potential and the “Why Del Mar” report helped him secure investors to develop the Del Mar Inn, including the Canterbury Corner, refurbish the historic Stratford Square building, and purchase the old Del Mar Hotel site, convert eight service stations and attract 30+ new businesses including Bully’s Restaurant.
By 1969-71, thanks greatly to Watkins expertise and enthusiasm, Del Mar’s economy was stabilized.
Watkins began dreaming about building a great hotel for his adopted home, That dream became reality in 1989 when Jim opened the L’Auberge luxury resort.
Three decades later, L’Auberge continues as Del Mar’s primary single source of net revenue providing approximately $1.7 million annually and over $30 million to date in T.O.T., sales and property taxes.
50 years later, the love affair continues.
The challenge now is to achieve the community plan goals for a vibrant, economically viable, pedestrian-oriented downtown.
Jim is blessed to have the support of many in the community and his daughters, Kit, and KC. Watkins continues to live in Del Mar with his lovely wife Bernadette. They are avid tennis players, enjoy travel, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to total 40 with more on the way.
In 2012 the county of San Diego honored Jim proclaiming March 7th “Jim Watkins Day”.
Other honors include Bronze Star for Service in Korea, Del Mar Rotarian of the Year, YMCA Man of the Year; American Resort Development Association Professional of the Year; Boys and Girls Club Living Legend, Carlsbad’s Lifetime Achievement Finalist; and twice Del Mar Man of the Year.
Jim was also an author and first chairman/Del Mar Design Review Board, Del Mar Chamber of Commerce President; Del Mar Rotary President and Chairman of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club.