When Fred Bruning looks at the Redondo Beach pier, he envisions elements of Pike's Place Market in Seattle, the stylized outdoor marketplace of Bridgeport Village in Portland, Ore., and the grand water features at Station Park in Farmington, Utah. All of these locations are inspiration for the impending redesign of the Redondo Beach waterfront.
Bruning is CEO of the El Segundo-based developer, CenterCal properties, which the city of Redondo Beach has chosen to revitalize the pier and harbor area. On Saturday, CenterCal revealed its plans for the waterfront to residents of the surrounding area, local business owners and community leaders. The meeting was designed as a means of acquiring feedback from the community.
"It's kind of a sacred site and if we're going to do this, we should do it right or not at all," Bruning said.
Because the community's input is important to the developers, CenterCal has had multiple meetings over the course of the past year with groups of waterfront residents. The Redondo Beach City Council will vote on a preliminary design concept for the project mid-March.
Not only is the waterfront due for renovations to plan for rising sea levels, but many buildings need refurbishment for quality purposes as well. Bruning pointed out that one of his main concerns was also that fewer residents are visiting the waterfront.
"We want to create an experience that's going to bring the greater Redondo community back to the waterfront," Bruning said. "The saddest thing we've learned is that a lot of people don't go down there anymore."
Plans revealed at Saturday's meeting involve the installation of water features, a wider variety of dining experiences, a market hall and local retail shops. There also are plans for a small theater and a boutique hotel on the beach with access to the ocean.
The theater would be significantly different from movie theaters such as the AMC, Bruning said, offering reserved seating for only 600 to 800 compared with the 5,000 seats available at a typical multiplex. He said the theater would showcase a select number of films as well as other forms of art. Food service and a full bar would be offered as well.
Bruning said a theater would keep residents visiting the waterfront throughout the week.
As for the boutique hotel, Bruning said he envisions visitors and residents eating breakfast at its restaurant on a ground level that opens up directly to the beach. "We think that could be a magic moment for the site," he said.
Bruning said the waterfront designs will differ greatly from other South Bay shopping areas, such as the Del Amo and South Bay Galleria malls. The design, he said, would be "open, inviting and green," and efforts would be taken to keep the new layout from obstructing ocean views.
The plans also will create more bike and pedestrian access to the waterfront and will improve what Bruning referred to as "the spaghetti bowl" roundabout entrance to the parking structure from Torrance Boulevard, where he noted that many drivers become confused.
Bruning said CenterCal would also like to make some renovations to Seaside Lagoon, the saltwater plunge alongside the ocean. He said he does not like the unnatural way that it heats and chlorinates ocean water, and that he would like the lagoon to connect to the ocean currents as a natural estuary.
With his revitalization plan, he said, the lagoon would be open year-round. In addition to allowing kids a place to swim and play in the sand, there could be a large park area open for other activities.
"It makes more sense than trying to make it a pool for part of the year and then trying to dump all those chemicals back in the ocean," Bruning said.
Noting that the pier currently brings in many bar-goers, Bruning said the new design would hopefully attract a broader spectrum of visitors - notably more families.
Redondo Beach resident Nadine Meisser, founder of a group called Residents for Appropriate Development, said she is grateful for how responsive CenterCal has been to residents' concerns about the waterfront development proposals. But even after after Saturday's meeting, she said the residents of waterfront condominiums would still like to see more detailed design plans before the organization gives its full approval to the project.
Meisser's condo is in The Village Condominiums, situated just 60 feet from the Redondo Beach pier. From her living room window, she can see sailboats floating in and out of King Harbor. Some of the other RAD members live in the neighboring Seacrest Condos.
"I think that with the property value aspect, public views are really key," Meisser said.
Although she was unable to obtain a consensus from all the RAD members immediately following the meeting, Meisser said she and other members of the organization would like to see more 3-D models of what the development will look like so they can get a better sense of how views may or may not become obstructed. They also will be looking for comprehensive reports on how traffic conditions could change in their area. So far, they have seen a few sketches and been given descriptions of the development only - which Meisser said is probably because it's so early in the development phase.
RAD is not opposed to development, Meisser said, but rather wants to ensure local residents are involved in the process and decision-making. With a looming March deadline for City Council approval of design concepts, Meisser said she hopes development decisions are not rushed and that residents can remain involved.
"CenterCal is trying to affect as few people as possible and we applaud that," Meisser said. "We want to help them impact as few people as possible."
Councilman Pat Aust said that although the council plans to vote on the design concept in mid-March, the vote merely designates "where the project is going, not the final picture." No logistic decisions will be decided until more information is available, he said.
"The approval would be on the concept, where it's going," Aust said. "I think the whole council unanimously likes where this is going. This will all be refined."
Rupesh Bhakta, director of acquisitions for CenterCal and a Redondo Beach resident, said he has met with several residents about the project and has even visited their homes to speak with them and take photos of their waterfront views. He said he has been pleased to hear positive feedback from the community about how he has actively sought their input.
"That's a great testament to all of the work we're doing," he said.
He said the waterfront area has the potential to be as attractive a destination point as areas like the Santa Monica Pier and downtown Los Angeles. "I love going down there (to the Redondo pier) but only to certain areas because it's just not an attractive area and I think we could do a lot more," Bhakta said.
Ultimately, Bruning said the goal of the project is to transform the Redondo Beach pier into a popular destination.
"If the community's back, the greater South Bay will follow," Bruning said. "I think we can really change the character if we add some of these elements properly."