Developers of San Pedro’s Ports O’ Call overhaul say groundbreaking to come in 2020

Developers of the 42-acre San Pedro Public Market, the project taking over the area’s famed waterfront, have said that despite small setbacks, the project has secured some $30 million in funding and will break ground in the spring of 2020.

The $30 million in equity financing from Washington State-based Osprey Investors has let the project take “one step closer to reality,” in the words of Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino.

“If things go accordingly and we keep on the schedule we’ve had, we should be breaking ground on the San Pedro Public Market in the spring of 2020 and open in the fall of 2021,” said Alan Johnson, president for Jerico Development, Inc.

The arduous battle to get the project going has been a seven-year long endeavor and, most recently, included yet another return to the drawing board for designs, the third in the project’s existence.

After plans were revealed in March 2016 for the $100 million renovation of the San Pedro’s famed, 30-acre waterfront area known as Ports O’ Call, not many were impressed—including the large portion of Long Beach fisherman and sailors who bounce back and forth between Ports O’ Call and Long Beach.

The proposals were theme park-y, kitschy, and looking more like Disney California Adventure than a new market. In other words, they were trying to clean up—with much too much sterility—what had become a dingy den of happiness for most visitors, a dirty rite of passage for SoCal denizens.

And the lack of enthusiasm forced design teams back to the drawing boards by way of public opinion.

Those then-new plans were unveiled last year by the Ratkovich Company and Jerico Development, the partnership forming the L.A. Waterfront Alliance overseeing the project, as the Ports O’ Call area was undergoing demolition to make way for the project. Shown at the Warner Theatre in San Pedro, the designs drew both applause and raised eyebrows from the design. (Those designs included Rapt Studio as its design architect, James Cornfield Field Operations overseeing landscaping, and Adamson & Assoc. serving as Executive Architect.)

The unveiling revealed stark contrasts to initial proposals, entirely eschewing an homage to the area’s nautical past and instead aiming for a glass-and-metal look with large, steel A-frames that encase massive expanses of retail and restaurant space.

The latest batch of renderings—set to a price tag of $150 million—seem to be a mixture of the previous, hyper-contemporary iteration and a return to a more rustic look, with corrugated metals, earth tones, and large logos being paired with an expanded patio section, more outdoor dining space and container kitchens, and play areas for those with children and dogs.

“The design is going to feel new, but still like it’s been part of this community forever,” said Sam Farhang, an architect with Rapt Studios. “It’s true to the site as a working port and true to the heritage of San Pedro as an industrial location.”

The project’s highlights include:

  • Fisherman’s Park, a three-acre pedestrian promenade that includes trails, bicycle paths, water features, and more.
  • There will be 600 feet of continuous courtesy slips, bike and scooter paths, along with pedestrian and jogging paths providing direct waterfront access along the Market Walk.
  • An open-air amphitheater to be operated by Nederlander Concerts, the music giant that heads up some of L.A.’s stellar venues, including the El Rey, the Greek, and the Forum.
  • The possible moving of the USS Iowa away from its northern docking slip and into the market space, acting as a direct attraction while also freeing up its former space to attract another cruise line.
  • The possible incorporation of the famed Red Trolley depending on the initial economic performance of the market.

A rendering the proposed San Pedro Public Market. Courtesy of Jerico Development, Inc.

As far as tenants go, the only original tenants will be the San Pedro Fish Market, which will remain open during construction of the Public Market as well as opening their first location in Long Beach, and the Ports O’ Call restaurant.

New tenants could not be immediately unveiled given the newness of the project, but one staple tenant will be a new restaurant by Chef Dustin J. Trani, whose family has owned and operated the 90-year-old J. Trani’s establishment in San Pedro.

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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