The Redondo Beach City Council will convene Tuesday night for a special meeting to determine which developer will win the contract to develop the 15-acre pier waterfront.
Redondo Beach City Staff and Waterfront and Economic Development Director Pete Carmichael suggested in the evening’s agenda that the City Council approve CenterCal Properties LLC as the preferred developer for the waterfront.
In mid-September the City Council called a special meeting to introduce three potential developers. CenterCal Properties, LLC from El Segundo, Pacifica Companies from San Diego, and L.A-based Lowe Enterprises with the Ruth Group each presented their vision for what the waterfront could look like if their companies were allowed the opportunity to spearhead the project. Lowe Enterprises and the Ruth Group are best known locally for the development of the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes. In an earlier contract, both the developers and the City Council signed “Integrity Guidelines” and agreed that they would not contact each other throughout the process until a developer was chosen.
Allison Rolfe, Pacifica Company’s director of planning was aware of the staff recommendation to go with their competitor, CenterCal, but in an interview while driving to Redondo Beach from San Diego on Tuesday afternoon said that she still hopes the council will vote for their company to become the developers.
“We have coastal development experience and have dealt with complex projects with different stakeholders before,” Rolfe said. “That’s our area of expertise.”
Fred Bruning, the CEO of CenterCal was pleased with the staff’s recommendation.
“You never know what’s going to happen before they talk,” said Bruning. “I think if we are fortunate… we see this as the start of a long process and an awful lot of communication with council and staff. We have a lot of ideas and a lot of things that get us excited about the site.”
The companies were urged to present a vision for the land, but not a lot of detail.
“The staff has asked us to be general right now,” said Bruning. “I think the idea is that they believe as we do that input has to be a big part of the program, and if we selected, in the [upcoming months] we will be talking to hundreds of people, retailers, the fish market, Tony’s, stakeholders, and residents to come up with something that we can put on paper.”
Councilmember Bill Brand said that he thinks that the process is moving too fast.
“We haven’t engaged the public in a proper fashion, and the staff and council, has not done a good job to bring the public along to better understand the process.”
Brand suggested a secondary meeting for a question and answer session between the council, residents and developers, but other council members thought it would be a waste of time and the meeting never happened.
“I think we should have had one,” said Brand. “I have a lot of questions, It’s an important decision… there’s no reason to rush this really, I haven’t made up my mind yet… we haven’t been able to speak with them and at this point we need to be talking more.”
However, the process of selecting a developer, according to Carmichael, was designed specifically to decide upon a reliable developer with strong financial backing and the ability to deliver when eventually chosen. The process was not intended to decide upon a developer based on their current vision because, with community input, that vision could change dramatically.
“The whole process has been set up to select a partner before getting into specific site planning,” Carmichael said. “Often times when you start site planning and still have a competitive environment with developers they tend to over-promise and when the reality sets in they tend to under-deliver. We’re selecting a capable developer and then engaging in honest dialogue with the [developer] and residents to start the site planning without another developer nipping at his heels.”
The decision to recommend CenterCal as the preferred developer was easy, Carmichael said. “They’re the best fit- for a lot of different reasons.”
Carmichael explained that CenterCal focuses on retail and entertainment and have an in-house staff that’s dedicated to leasing, marketing and event programming. “Which we feel will be a big component,” said Carmichael. “Their experience combining retail with hotel and a number of other reasons related to conceptual business plans really makes them the best fit.”
Carmichael said that the other two, Lowe Enterprises and Pacifica Companies, are more hotel-driven. Lowe, he said, was proposing a site driven by filling hotel rooms and Pacifica Companies is a mid-marketer of mid-range hotels. “Their expertise, while very good, is not as good a fit for the project our waterfront calls for,” said Carmichael. “CenterCal shined, combining hotel and retail… they’ve shown an ability to attract national and local tenants and mix them in a way that creates an authenticity.”
Rolfe, while hopeful her company will be picked, has no idea what the evening’s outcome will be.
“We’re going to a city council meeting without any sense of where the council members stand,” said Rolfe. “That’s unusual for us- we always try to know what the issues are in advance and be able to adjust. Now we’re going in without knowing anything. We’ve read the staff recommendation, that’s pretty much all we know.”
Each developer will be given five minutes to present any additional information about their vision and their company and council members and residents will be able to ask questions. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Visit the City of Redondo Beach website to read the staff report. ER