By Joshua H. Silavent - Staff Writer
August 28, 2012 - “The knock on [the Port of Los Angeles] has always been that they talk about getting stuff done,” but never actually do, said port spokesperson Phillip Sanfield.
But that’s all changing thanks to a $1.2 billion project launched in 2009 to redevelop 400 acres of San Pedro waterfront.
“We have a laundry list of things actively getting done,” Sanfield said.
Signs of life in a once-dilapidated area are springing forth, including new green spaces, a summer concert series, tours of the USS Iowa and the opening of a craft marketplace for artisans. Still, the best lies ahead.
In July, port officials issued a request for qualifications seeking developers interested in rehabilitating the Ports O’ Call Village, which is currently home to only a few restaurants and a fish market. “It’s just got kind of a worn feel to it,” Sanfield said, adding that it was built in the 1960s as a cheap takeoff on a seaside New England village.
A single commercial real estate developer is being sought to bring new retail, dining and entertainment venues to the 30-acre waterfront spread, which will likely serve as an anchor for the district.
“Our vision for this continues to be a world-class waterfront,” Sanfield said, adding that he envisions a day when the San Pedro waterfront will compete with those in Downtown Long Beach and elsewhere along the Southern California coast.
Sanfield said the port hopes to have a deal in place with a developer sometime in 2013. The biggest single element officials are looking for from a developer is a plan to “return the waterfront to the people,” he added.
Currently, the Ports ‘O Call Village is built down to the waterline, but Sanfield said port officials desire a promenade for runners, walkers and bicyclists stretching the length of the waterfront and connecting the entirety of the harbor area.
Meanwhile, a new harbor is under construction adjacent to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. The project is intended to create space for a new town square and promenade along the water.
When finished, the project will have cut into more than an acre of existing waterfront property between Harbor Boulevard and Fire Station 112, creating a new inlet for docking boats. The $21 million project is expected to be complete in mid-2013, according to port officials. An additional $17.5 million will be spent to develop the town square and promenade sometime in 2014.
“We want to bring the theater of the port to the people,” Sanfield said.
Moreover, port officials want to retain the history and charm of the entire harbor area, which began simply as a fishing dock, transitioned into a cargo port and now is emerging as a destination for tourists and residents alike.
For instance, the proposed 28-acre City Dock No. 1 Marine Research Center project includes improvements to the wharf, new floating docks, a waterfront promenade, upgraded water treatment systems and a learning center to connect researchers, businesses and government agencies “to conduct cutting-edge urban marine research and education,” according to a press release. Though it has yet to receive the green light, Sanfield said he expects to see movement on this project before the end of the year.
Timelines for complete redevelopment of the San Pedro waterfront are far from firm, but the area has plenty to offer visitors today.
The Cabrillo Way Marina, just north of the Ports O’ Call Village, was completed in December 2011, and now sets the benchmark for what a waterfront promenade and open space should look like.
“This does not feel like the nation’s largest container port,” Sanfield said.
Then there is the Wilmington Waterfront Park, which acts as a kind of buffer between the port and local residences. Completed last year, it serves as an example for the port’s reach and aspirations for redevelopment.
“We’re not just in San Pedro,” Sanfield said.
The 30-acre park features walkways, benches, a children’s playground and restrooms, and serves as a family-friendly open space for community events.
In all, waterfront redevelopment is expected to create 5,000 permanent jobs serving cruise lines, waterfront-related operations and new businesses and 13,700 one-year equivalent jobs during construction phases, according to port estimates.
Ultimately, Sanfield expects the San Pedro waterfront to serve as an economic engine for the area, drawing daily visitors from all over the world to a place that today sees most activity limited to weekends and holidays.
“There’s incredible potential,” Sanfield said.
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