Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price speaks to a crowd inside the Seaport Marina Hotel about the project that could replace the hotel. Photos by Jason Ruiz.
A community meeting this weekend, hosted inside the Seaport Marina Hotel, revealed the renderings and plans for the project that might ultimately replace it.
Mayor Robert Garcia, Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price and representatives from the group that hopes to develop the site outlined plans and answered questions for the 100-plus community members in attendance.
The corner of 2nd Street and Pacific Coast Highway and what it will become has remained a subject of debate, as well as the aim of a number of failed development attempts over the past few years. It’s arguably one of the most-trafficked entryways into Long Beach, but the welcome sign offered to visitors is currently a hotel that was built before the Beatles invaded the United States.
CenterCal Properties LLC, an El Segundo-based retail development company, is heading the effort to transform the corner from its current state to an experiential shopping and dining destination. The group has designed similar projects in Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City, Utah and Plaza 183, a revamp of the shopping center on the north side of the Cerritos Mall.
Price said that developing this prominent corner had been one of her biggest priorities since the time she was campaigning to become the third district council representative. Now that there’s a plan in place that meets all current zoning requirements drawing in the right kind of retailers to fill out the proposed 230,000 square foot development is one of the main focuses of the city and the development team.
The councilwoman said that the fact that the project has already executed a lease agreement with Whole Foods, one that would see the grocer move from its current location to serve as the anchor of the project at the corner of PCH and 2nd, could serve as a magnet of sorts for other high-end retailers.
The names she ticked off—Apple, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters—would help create the vibe of shopping centers like Fashion Island in Newport Beach. And, if the project were to, in fact, resemble those high-end shopping destinations in South Orange County, Price said the fiscal impact for the city could be a boon.
“It would be a game -changer in terms of sales tax revenue,” Price said. “Depending on the vendor they bring into this shopping center, it could produce a million to $2 million in sales tax revenue. it would be akin to the Town Center; it would be huge.”
The plans are for a modern, sleek two-story shopping center with view corridors and restaurants that will work to connect it with the marina to the east of the project site. The developers pointed out that while the Whole Foods would have its own dedicated parking lot, that majority of the spaces would be located above the stores to give priority to the pedestrian experience.
It lacks the vertical profile of past proposals, but its low-lying design could seemingly streamline the approval process, since it falls into the city’s zoning requirements and wouldn’t need exceptions granted from either the city or the California Coastal Commission, as was the case with the past projects. The mayor noted this during the presentation of the project during the meeting. He said it must meet a balance of function and environmental obligations.
“We want a project that is right-sized; we want a project that respects our environment around us; we want a project that respects that there are traffic impacts;, we want a project that also realizes that this sits in the middle of a neighborhood and is a gateway to a lot of places,” Garcia said. “At the same time, I hope like you, we want project that also looks great, that serves the needs of the community.”
The remarks made by those in attendance ranged from the obvious concerns over increased traffic to one of the busiest intersections in the city to concerns over the east side losing a hotel but not replacing its capacity in the new plans.
Jim Worsham, a resident of the Third District, said that he had liked the previous iterations of plans poised to replace the Seaport Marina Hotel because those plans called for a more prominent design. He had reservations over another shopping center being built across the street from two other shopping centers, but conceded that anything that would activate the corner was better than its current state.
“What we have right now is just a slum right in the middle of nice area,” Worsham said. “I understand why the people that own the property wouldn’t want to spend any money to upgrade the hotel because it’s a lost cause here. For all the money they put into this I just kind of expected something more.”
The call for bigger and better was not shared among everyone in attendance. Alaine Weiss said that she was pleased that the new project was in compliance with current zoning and preferred the low-lying nature of the renderings revealed Saturday.
“I think it’s more important to keep the height low, to keep this a low-rise neighborhood so we can enjoy the surrounding area,” Weiss said. “A high-rise project, we would see that form our home and it would be an eyesore.”
The project still faces an environmental impact review period and votes by the planning commission as well as the city—expected as soon as Spring 2017—but if no snags are along the way the 2nd and PCH project could open as soon as Fall 2018 according to the developers’ timeline.