The sale of 30 parcels of land near Atlantic Avenue and South Street to LAB Holding, LLC was approved by the Long Beach City Council Tuesday night for nearly $7 million. Google Maps screenshot.
Expanding its real estate presence into North Long Beach, the Orange County-based LAB Holding, LLC added to its collection of parcels last night after the Long Beach City Council approved a nearly $7 million sale of land expected to be developed into similar sites operated by the LAB in Orange County.
LAB (Little American Business) was founded in 1991 by Shaheen Sadeghi, who erected the Anti-Mall at the site of an abandoned factory in 1993 as a spot for artists, students and retail entrepreneurs in the Costa Mesa art district. He later built an “eco retail campus” named The CAMP in 2002, as well as the more recently completed Anaheim Packing District—a conglomerate of dining, retail and bars housed under the roof of an old Packard Building.
The group had previously secured 18 properties for sale in council districts eight and nine and last night added to that some 30 future development properties near the intersection of South Street and Atlantic Avenue, a total of 176,613 square feet, in district nine that will be rolled into a single purchase price of about $2.6 million. The purchase would give the group a large swath of parcels spanning the Atlantic corridor from 56th Street to 60th Street.
The land is expected to be created into a North Village, not unlike the LAB's other ventures, which will likely be focused on local retailers and artisan vendors.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson took time, like much of the council, to praise outgoing Economic Development Manager Mike Conway for his work in helping to find creative ways to bundle parcels in the city’s recent selloff of former redevelopment agency properties. This project could help activate the area around the nearly completed Michelle Obama Library, which had portions of its land parcel included in the deal with LAB.
“This is a strong way to finish; this is a really exciting project,” Richardson said. “I’m really really happy to see that he was able to use different techniques in the long range property management plan to incentivize three different types of properties to really prepare and situate a comprehensive development anchored by the Michelle Obama Library, spanning two districts and really a representation of what we’ve been talking about for a number of years, the Uptown Renaissance.”
Conway noted there was fluctuation in price from the fair market value of the land and the projected cost of completing the projected as estimated by the LAB. The difference in cost is $1.1 million dollars according to a city document. With the vote last night, the city agreed to reduce the price of the parcels by that $1.1 million figure, noting that the LAB had indicated “it cannot proceed without a reduction in the purchase price.”
This accommodation, Conway said, was not a city subsidy, but instead a “calculation of the land’s value required to achieve project economics, something allowed under the city’s long-term property management plan. The total property sale will total just over $6.9 million, with the city slated to get 21 percent of the net sale proceeds. Seventy five percent of that total will remain in the North Redevelopment Project Area, with the rest being dispersed to citywide economic development efforts.
Eighth District Councilman Al Austin, whose district, along with Richardson’s, stands to benefit from this proposed North Village project by the LAB, called it a “game changer” and something that stood to benefit not only North Long Beach, but the city as a whole. Austin noted that it took a lot of lobbying on the state level to free up some of these parcels to the land management plan. Seeing big developments that have more frequently been centered in downtown head north is something that has his constituents excited.
“This is great news for Uptown, more specifically for the residents that have been waiting for many many years for something to happen to make the north part of our city relevant,” Austin said. “It was very frustrating to sit here for several years when the redevelopment process was unwinding and we could not do anything with those properties.”
The sell-off of former redevelopment land for economic development has been the source of frequent headlines recently, most notably of the council’s approvals of land sales in the downtown sector that could dramatically alter the city’s skyline. Many of those developments, especially those in the downtown area, are projected to be luxury residential developments.
This unloading of the former redevelopment agency land hasn't pleased everyone, including Housing Long Beach Executive Director Josh Butler, whose group has fought for renters' rights in Long Beach and advocated for more affordable housing.
Under the state government code regarding surplus land, an entity seeking to provide affordable housing for low-to-moderate income households is to be given "first priority" when a local agency is disposing of surplus land. Butler asked that the council and city staff make future outreach efforts more proactive, starting with placing affordable housing providers on the list for notification when parcels are up for sale.
"That doesn’t mean that the council or staff has to select that development for that property, but that we are to be reaching out to our affordable housing developers, notifying them of the property and accepting any bids and entering into good faith negotiations if they do submit said bid," Butler said.
Mayor Robert Garica pointed out that the city has sold over 250 land parcels, some of which have been combined to make larger parcels, something he called one of the larger economic development efforts the city had made in a few decades. The motion approved last night, he said, stands to dramatically impact both districts eight and nine.
“I think this is one of the most exciting things to happen in North Long Beach in a really long time,” Garcia said. “If you’re not familiar with the LAB Holdings, if you’re not familiar with The Camp, the Anti-Mall development, the Anaheim Packing District, these are really creative and unique spaces in other communities and the fact that these developers want to work in Long Beach in a way that’s creative and community-centered is very exciting for the north.”