Public comment open on massive, 30-story hotel being proposed in Downtown

The draft environmental impact report for the massive, 30-story hotel being proposed at the southeast corner of Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue in Downtown Long Beach is now being distributed for public comment, which ends Monday, Sept. 30.

The corner where the Jergins Trust building once stood was once a bustling epicenter of activity, if not the epicenter of activity in Long Beach: The intersection was seeing some 4,000 people cross the intersection per hour on weekends in 1927—a number we could only hope for in an entire day in 2018—and it prompted then-Councilman Alexander Beck to create the famed Jergins Tunnel to move people across Ocean Boulevard more safely and efficiently.

Hotel investors are seeking to grasp that sense of human activity once more and, if their plans follow through, Ocean and Pine will never look the same again.

While investors Pacific6 announced their plans to return the dilapidated and abandoned historic Ocean Center building into residences across the street, China-owned, Seattle-based American Life, Inc. has released updated renderings for its 30-story hotel at the southeast corner.

What was a planned 25-story mixed-use hotel development when first proposed to the city, the massive structure faces many contingencies.

While smaller projects—like Parc Broadway, OceanAire, and the Seaside Way projects—have finally broken ground and are nearing completion, much more massive projects like the Broadway Block development remain the same as they did when they were sold nearly three years ago.

The Jergins Trust building sold for $7 million. American Life ousted Long Beach-based developer Ensemble (which has taken on two residential developments that lack density and height: a five-story building at 247 Seaside and another five-story stub at 442 Ocean).

While Ensemble’s bid for the site remains a mystery, what American Life could bring to the table is impressive: 429 hotel rooms spread across 30 stories that sit above 22,500 square feet of meeting and pre-function space, below- and above-grade parking, 8,000 square feet of restaurant space, and 28,000 square feet of guest amenities, including a pool and sun deck. Even more, the project is also expected to incorporate a portion of Victory Park, which is now home to the slowly dilapidating, once-awesome Loop, as well as provide 361 long-term and 1,701 short-term jobs.

And what is on everyone’s mind: The aforementioned Jergins Tunnel. The developer has agreed to incorporate the tunnel into its design, providing public access to the long-shuttered but much-revered passage.

“The conceptual plans highlight the opportunity to not just re-open access to Jergins Tunnel but also share the history of the tunnel, the Jergins Trust Building, and the historical seaside resort culture of [Long Beach],” said project manager Anita Juhola-Garcia in a letter from city staff recommending that the commission move forward with the plan last year.

Headed by Portland-based GBD Architects (the firm behind the hotel’s overall design) and assisted by the San Francisco-based historic preservation firm Page & Turnbull, the interpretative plan for the space—design-speak for the initial step in special projects such as this—will, first and foremost, return the tunnel’s access to the public via a street-level entrance on the south side of Ocean that descends two levels.

There’s an interesting caveat to the whole deal: It hinges on a transient occupancy tax agreement where the city shares part of that tax with the developer. The amount? 50 percent. That’s right: American Life will keep 50 percent of the room tax revenue, or what is estimated to provide the development with some $27 million over a 20-year period.

The reason? To fill an “economic gap” of about $47 million between the estimated cost of construction and the value of the future development. Should the city disagree with the hotel brand chosen to represent the space, the contract can be terminated (and let’s hope we don’t get an empty lot for another 30 years).

To view the EIR, click here.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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