From retail to restaurants to housing, the City of Carson is taking off in terms of development projects.


“When you think about it, Carson doesn’t really have a traditional downtown,” City Manager Ken Farfsing said. “We’re kind of creating a downtown.”


One of the largest projects in the works will be taking place at the 157-acre site where the city had hoped to build a massive football stadium complex for the Chargers. After the team’s decision to opt for Inglewood, Carson had to decide what to do with the site, now divided into five areas, or cells.


The city currently has an exclusive negotiation agreement with Santa Monica-based developer Macerich Real Estate Co. to build a large outlet mall on cell two of the property. John Raymond, director of community development, said the city has selected a developer to construct a traditional big-box, cross-entertainment retail center on cells three, four and five.


“The way that site is configured is the big box would be in the back, and there’s this kind of donut hole in the center where they would put like a Dave & Buster’s or that sort of thing, plus a cluster of restaurants and other entertainment kind of retail,” Raymond said. “The interesting thing about their proposal is that it has two hotels.”


Farfsing said it has yet to be determined what the remaining cell will be developed into, but noted it could be residential or retail.


The site is a landfill area, which Raymond and Farfsing said makes it very difficult to develop. Due to waste decomposition, structures must be built on piles that go through the trash and 20 feet into the native soil to prevent the buildings from sinking. There are also environmental issues to be considered.


“This has been the most complicated project. We are lucky to have [Raymond] because he’s got so much experience at it,” Farfsing said. “But he’s spending three-quarters of his time, easily, on it, while still trying to run his department, which has a lot of stuff going on.”


Several housing and mixed-use developments are under construction or in the works for the city, as well. Raymond noted that a number of projects recently approved are for affordable housing developments.


Raymond made special note of a project by Los Angeles-based developer Meta Housing Corporation that consists of 45 affordable units set aside for working artists.


“Carson doesn’t really have an arts economy. There are no galleries here. There’s no music store. There’s no anything like that,” Raymond said. “So when you start looking at how you would like to change the community, introduce some positive change, we think that could be a really tremendous boost and a different sensibility to what Carson’s about.”


One of the largest housing developments coming to the city is Union South Bay – formerly The Avalon – by Faring Capital, which will include 357 residential units and 30,000 square feet of commercial space for retail and restaurant uses.


“We believe Carson’s future is bright, and we are excited to be a part of the city’s growth,” Faring CEO Jason Illoulian told the Business Journal.


Other large projects in the city include the Shell Revitalization Project and a proposal by Tesoro to merge two of its refineries. The revitalization project was put on the backburner by Shell Oil Products U.S. years ago, but the company recently said they plan on presenting the city with a proposal eventually, according to Raymond.


As for the Tesoro merger, the company hopes to shut down a Wilmington operation and develop a new facility in Carson to reduce emissions to the region. Carson city officials do not think environmental impact reports take into account negative impacts to Carson, focusing on regional benefits instead.


“We’re in negotiations with Tesoro right now, [which] is probably the best description of it right now,” Farfsing said. “We’re at the point now with Tesoro and the air district that we don’t necessarily agree that the EIR has everything in it that we need to mitigate the health impacts on our communities. But we’re still meeting with Tesoro to try to figure this thing out.”


Carson is also undergoing several infrastructure improvements, including a $20 million project along one and a half miles of Carson Street. Farfsing said this is currently the largest infrastructure project, and it consists of traffic calming measures as well as beautification and drought tolerant landscaping.


Other infrastructure improvements include a Wilmington Avenue ramp off the 405 Freeway, which is nearing completion; intersection work near city hall; and a stormwater capture project at Carriage Crest Park, which is in the planning stages.


Farfsing said that the city does not have a lot of general fund monies to allocate toward infrastructure improvements due to a budget deficit. He explained that much of the construction is paid for through redevelopment agency bond funds or grants the city has applied for.


“All this was laid out in the ’40s and ’50s – very automobile-centric but not really a pedestrian environment. Very little of Carson is a pedestrian environment,” Raymond said. “So we are trying to take our main commercial street, Carson Street, and make it more so.”


Click here to download a list of development projects in the City of Carson that were recently completed, currently under construction, approved or in plan check, or under review.

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