Months after celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Queen Mary’s arrival, Long Beach city officials may finally have viable plans for more than 43 acres of land surrounding the iconic ship.


The Queen Mary Land Development Task Force has been brainstorming ideas for the land since January and will share its progress with the public on Saturday, July 9, at 11 a.m. at the First Congregational Church located at 241 Cedar Ave.

Michael Bohn, Queen Mary Land Development Task Force chair, left, and Jeff Hoffman, task force vice chair, stand in front of the iconic Long Beach landmark. Bohn and Hoffman are “excited” for the task force presentation of its progress to the public on Saturday, July 9, at 11 a.m. at the First Congregational Church. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


“All of our meetings have been public, but we’re really hoping, now that we have some ideas and some stronger, developed language, that a broader group of the community will come out and respond to those ideas,” Michael Bohn, task force chair, told the Business Journal.


After hearing the praises and concerns of the community, the task force will amend and formalize its ideas before sending them to the mayor and city council for review.


Both Bohn and task force Vice Chair Jeff Hoffman described one of the greatest challenges the project faces as the location’s connectivity to the rest of the city and even within the site itself. The area’s connection to Downtown Long Beach is very narrow and is only accessible by the Rainbow Harbor Bridge or the 710 Freeway.


Suggestions on how to ease the problem of connectivity are being included in the presentation by the task force, as well as solutions to other problems such as parking.


“Parking is obviously a huge driver, and one of the thoughts is to consolidate parking,” Bohn said. “Right now, most of that site is just surface parking and it’s not very pedestrian friendly. If you were to go to Carnival Cruises and you had a few hours to spend, it’s very hard to maneuver through the site.”


Another challenge the task force must overcome is the fact that the site sits on tidelands and all projects must fit into the restraints of State Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission regulations. However, neither Bohn nor Hoffman seemed to think this would hinder any potential projects.


Hoffman said some of the project ideas to be presented Saturday are a hotel and different types of restaurants and retailers than those located across the water in downtown. Also, to keep in line with Mayor Robert Garcia’s request that task force ideas be bold and engage the community, Hoffman described art galleries where residents and visitors could see artists at work or even take art classes, and possibly cooking classes connected to the new restaurants.


“Maybe some type of food-hall market complex that resembles the type of stores such as you would see at Pike Place Market in Seattle or the Ferry Building in San Francisco,” Hoffman said. “Something that we currently don’t have in Long Beach that we think would be a draw and where residents would like to go.”


Bohn also noted that making sure the project is not “overly privatized” is a priority, as the task force wants residents and visitors to be able to enjoy the new space without having to pay.


Most importantly, Bohn added that the plans must be “appropriate to Long Beach and, at the same time, complement the Queen Mary. We don’t want to overrun its stature and its prominence within the city and the shoreline.”


According to Hoffman, the task force has not been presented concepts by Urban Commons, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment and development firm, which holds a new 66-year lease on the site. “We saw the ideas that Garrison, the previous lease holder, had put together, but we have not had any type of presentation by Urban Commons,” he said.


However, on Thursday, June 23, Dan Zaharoni, president of Aegis Development Services in Los Angeles, which represents Urban Commons, presented a potential concept to the board of the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the bureau, described the presentation as “innovative” and said that the board was both impressed and excited by the concept.


“They’re excited in that it’s a new form of entertainment – more active-oriented,” Goodling said. “A lot of action sports, a lot of high-octane type of events. It will appeal to a younger market and I think it also will round out and add to what Long Beach has to offer.”


Through the years, several proposals have been brought to the City of Long Beach for attractions that would accompany the Queen Mary. From a marine park by Disney to a science fiction museum, each idea sank decade after decade. However, both the task force and the bureau are confident that, with the help of Urban Commons and public support, the land can finally be utilized to its full potential.


Regarding Urban Commons, Goodling said, “The nice news is that they have the bandwidth, both financially and talent-wise, to be able to execute these dreams, these visions.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.