The preliminary design for a revitalized Redondo Beach waterfront won applause this week from an audience of city residents, business owners, boaters and others.
"That applause is well-earned," Mayor Mike Gin told CenterCal CEO Fred Bruning, whose firm was chosen in October to revitalize 15 acres of the pier and harbor area. "It (the applause) is from your sincerity to work with the community and the fact that you are incorporating aspects of that input. "
The City Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously to have city staff continue working with CenterCal on the project.
The design concept unveiled at the meeting includes several elements that could radically transform the waterfront, which has declined over the years due to aging buildings, poor bicyclist and pedestrian circulation, and a general lack of amenities to attract visitors.
CenterCal's concept, developed after five community meetings and design workshops, includes a 100-room V-shaped boutique hotel set in front of an expanded beachfront within the existing horseshoe-shaped pier, a marketplace hall for selling fresh fish, a redesigned Seaside Lagoon, a small high-end movie theater and a bridge spanning the harbor.
"You have a great opportunity for a project that the community can be proud of for the next two generations," Bruning said.
While the councilmen told Bruning and his team what they liked about the
Instead, they agreed to extend the city's exclusive negotiating period with CenterCal to June 25, when a more detailed concept will be presented. They also approved a revised project schedule that will add five more public meetings within that time frame and inked a reimbursement agreement for CenterCal to cover some of the city's costs associated with the environmental review and other expenditures.
Bruning put the cost of the revitalization at approximately $300 million, a $100 million jump from earlier estimates as a result of the company's determination that much of the area's infrastructure will have to be replaced.
Financing will require a mix of private and public investment, with much of it coming from CenterCal's financial backers, the California State Teachers Retirement Fund. The extent and source of public funding is still to be determined. Borrowing against parking revenues to fund a new parking structure was one idea discussed Tuesday.
A new above-ground parking structure proposed for the north end of the project, in front of the Crowne Plaza hotel, was the least popular feature, even for Bruning.
"I think we can be a better neighbor (with parking) than this plan shows," he said. Although he pointed out that while subterranean parking might be more visually appealing, the cost per space more than triples to $60,000, as opposed to $12,000 for each spot in a structure.
Placement of the structure at the north end of the site was done to protect views for residents of the large condominium complexes overlooking the pier and harbor, Bruning said. CenterCal staff met extensively with members of Residents for Appropriate Development (RAD), a group of residents of those complexes, and visited 78 units in the Village and Seascape complexes to photograph existing views. Those photos will be used to create an online simulation of what the new view will be like from each unit under the proposed design.
RAD Chairwoman Nadine Messiner praised CenterCal's community outreach in a letter.
"CenterCal seems committed to our community and the long-term success of the project," she wrote.
Messiner said RAD was pleased to see the new hotel would be a half-story shorter than the existing Pier Plaza office buildings it would replace. However, she said, the residents were opposed to an extension of Harbor Drive that was proposed to run through the project, a concern echoed by other members of the audience and the City Council.
In the design concept, the International Boardwalk would be removed and replaced with a two-lane road on a lower level and a bike path and pedestrian walkway on an upper level.
Bruning said that while connecting the north and south sides of the waterfront is key to the project's success, the company would investigate alternatives to a roadway for cars. The design proposal also includes other bike and pedestrian paths in other areas of the project.
The design calls for commercial uses on approximately 43 percent of the site, with open space and other uses on the remaining area. Bruning said there would be plenty of room for activities such as yoga on the beach, cooking classes, art shows and concerts.
A signature bridge proposed to span from the elbow of the pier to land on the north side of the harbor opening, referred to technically as Basin 3, generated much excitement but also questions about who would pay for it. Bruning said the cost would fall to CenterCal and that the bridge would be "a romantic walk," a place for people to enjoy an expansive view of the ocean and waterfront.
The most dissident voice of the evening came from Al West, a criminal defense lawyer with an office in the Pier Plaza complex. West said he welcomed a sprucing up of the area but warned that guests of the new hotel could take up most of the parking in a new structure that is planned to fill up the "spaghetti bowl" depression where Torrance Boulevard drops down into the pier area.
West said the limited amount of commercial space in the design concept would lead to higher rents. "Existing tenants should get first shot," he said. "If those rents get jacked up, they won't be able to get first shot. "