After more than two decades of hopeful talk, 2012 was the year that revitalization actually began occurring on the long-neglected Redondo Beach waterfront.
The first major change to occur – on the ground, not just conceptually – was the million dollar reinvestment and rebuilding the Redondo Beach pier’s biggest leasehold.
Pier Landing, the most visually prominent component of the century-old pier, was rebuilt by master lessee Bob Resnick to hearken back to the pier’s origins as Wharf #1 in 1889. Pier Landing was more than just a facelift: it immediately spawned several new businesses, including a new coffee shop and gelato café, and its history-themed picnic area created a sense of vibrancy that had been missing for the better part of a half-century.
Within one week in August, both the Pier Landing and the city’s sparkling new $2 million Harbor Patrol facility were unveiled, lending a long-absent air of optimism for the future of the waterfront. Meanwhile, local entrepreneur Mike Zislis moved forward with plans for the $20 million boutique Shade Hotel, expected to be completed in 2014 on Harbor Drive. Across the street, the Crowne Plaza Hotel worked on more than $16 million in upgrades that will be completed in early 2013. And the city purchased a 15-acre tract of waterfront leaseholds and chose CenterCal Properties LLC., to lead a $150 to $200 million development project that will include retail and entertainment components as well as a new public plaza.
The 15 acre new development includes the Pier Plaza, International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach marina and additional pier properties. It was obtained in the past year by the city after, which quietly bought back leaseholds in order to aggregate a single leasehold that could attract a large-scale developer.
“The Redondo Beach Waterfront is a priceless asset that must be carefully nurtured,” Mayor Mike Gin said when the redevelopment was announced. “Together, the city and Waterfront stakeholders will create a destination that is an attractive and renewed source of pride for residents and a significant generator of tourism.”
According to Waterfront and Economic Development Director Pete Carmichael, more than $50 million will be infused into the waterfront in the next two years, including CenterCal’s potential $40 million in immediate upgrades and the city’s planned $5 million to $10 million in infrastructure improvements.
“To redo 15 acres with a single vision is really transformational,” said Carmichael.
In late October, the city council voted unanimously to award the major development bid to El Segundo-based CenterCal Properties to spearhead the project. By year’s end, the firm was conducting community input meetings.
“You have a sacred piece of land,” said Fred Bruning, CEO of CenterCal properties. “You have something that can’t be replicated and really is unique. It’s something that’s needed investment for many years and I think it’s time for reinvestment and creating an even more special place that’s open to the public and also takes into account the needs of the people living nearby.”
Carmichael stressed the importance of CenterCal’s focus on retail and entertainment and in-house staff 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.”
Prior to choosing a developer, Councilman Steve Aspel emphasized the importance of working with the current tenants. “We want to make sure you know who they are… you have to work with them,” said Aspel. “We don’t want to throw them out… They’ve been loyal to the pier for a long time.”
The development could face some obstacles. Neighboring condominium owners live, in some cases, within feet of the proposed development. They have already formed a group, Resident for Appropriate Development, which has expressed concerns over construction noise and questioned whether the new project truly reflects the community’s need for a gathering place.
“There are over 1000 residents’ right there… and it’s critical that whatever they’re going to build is harmonious with residential living,” Nadine Meisner, a 13-year waterfront condo resident said during the first community input meeting.
“I’m already getting an idea in my mind, and if we do it right, it will raise the value of the Village homes,” said Bruning. “I want it to be successful. Tourists are great, but we’ll primarily be serving Redondo Beach. If we don’t do that, nothing will be accomplished.”
Redondo Beach Council, Harbor Commission and CenterCal will spend the next 24 to 36 months discussing the site planning, design and will conduct an environmental review and as many as 50 public input meetings.
“The city is poised to put itself back on the map, like it used to be,” said resident and master leaseholder Bob Resnick. “It’s an exciting new chapter in the history of Redondo Beach.”
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