2nd & PCH a Reality

By: 
Steve Propes

It’s a Mediterranean-themed white against blue sky-designed space, accented by art and ambient elements with the palpable scent of anticipated commerce, not unlike the Sephora store facing the stage.

The long awaited 2nd and PCH center is in a wait-no-longer phase. The experience of waiting, hoping, even doubting it would ever come into being, was clearly on the mind of those half dozen or so local business leaders, bureaucrats and politicians who participated in short speeches and the inevitable public ribbon cutting before 250 or so persons who filled the wooden-decked courtyard area surrounding a spherical steel fountain that lights up as a center piece at night.

The buzz had finally arrived and not from the drone hovering overhead. The two politicos on hand were Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price,  who was turned into a center fan by word of an upcoming Anthropologie.

A speaker, who lives nearby and passes the busy intersection daily, said the SeaPort Marina Hotel’s best days had come and gone, was tired of looking at it and wondered if it would ever be replaced. The point was made that residents of the area felt the need for upscale shopping in the region, and that this center filled the bill.

The most recent use was the $3 million Edgewater Inn Marina Hotel which opened in early 1963, renamed the Hyatt Edgewater and most recently, the SeaPort Marina.

Super Bowl I teams stayed at the Edgewater in 1967. For a Long Beach performance, Elvis stayed there in 1972. In the 1980s, various Long Beach Blues Festival greats were booked there. Its age began to show with less prestigious bookings, the Red Cross placing persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina, mixed with Veteran’s Hospital outpatients and yachtsmen in town on a layover. 

By 2003, the prospect of something new at the site was under debate. In early 2006, then-Third District Councilman Frank Colonna described the SeaPort Marina Hotel as “a problem site from since I’ve taken office, and before.”

At about the same time, Lennar Corporation entered into a partnership with the current ownership, touting it as Long Beach’s answer to the upscale South Coast Plaza. Currently, “It’s not the best foot forward” for the area, said a Lennar project director. “It’s one of the last areas for redevelopment.”

David Malmuth Development, LLC, gave development a shot in 2012, with a mixed retail, hotel and residential concept that exceeded height requirements, causing it to fail in 2014 from lack of support on the city council. Current mayor, then-First District Councilman Robert Garcia and then-Third District Councilman Gary DeLong did vote favorably.

As the late Beachcomber reporter Sean Belk wrote in late 2017, “The key to moving through the city’s approval process smoothly, as opposed to previous high-density proposals, was sticking to the city’s existing zoning, which caps building heights at 35 feet and prohibits residential uses at the site.”

Eventually, CenterCal Properties, LLC, brought it through development. As Price stated, it couldn’t have succeeded without the support of the mayor. Both Garcia and Price were on hand when CenterCal brought out its proposal for the site in November 2016, almost exactly three years ago. Since then, development has continued apace.

After the ceremony, Garcia stuck around for awhile, leading his retinue into and from the Whole Foods area. Price stuck around for at least an hour, lingering for photos with others, returning through the plaza area, while Jasper Wong, who “curated” the center’s art installations and murals, conducted a walking tour.

Adjacent to Whole Foods, access rooftop parking via a steep ramp, evocative of Airplane Hill in Signal Hill or Lombard Street in San Francisco. During the ribbon cutting weekend, parking was open and free. Paid parking thereafter. Jean Paul Wardy, president of CenterCal said parking will be free for the first hour-and-a-half. Something about discouraging those who use it as parking headquarters for ancillary activities in this entertainment and water sports-rich neighborhood instead of shopping the center. Elevator #12 at the far south end rooftop lot exits in the heart of the action.

Parked on-site was a small ‘50s era green and white travel trailer fronting an empty space, a temporary home for a construction worker or watchman? No, said Wardy, it would be used as a so-called “pop-up” location.

Despite the official opening, it’s still a work in progress with room for about 60 businesses in the total  215,000-square-foot center. About 75 percent of the spaces are leased, with 16 food and drink shops currently open or in the offing. East Coast burger fave Shake Shack is open, just follow the line. Of the 13 already open or pending tenants in the lifestyle/fashion category, Warby Parker, moderately priced designer eyeglass vendor is open.

Yet to open, the intriguingly named Johnny Was clothing line, lifted from a reggae lyric by Bob Marley & The Wailers.

steve@beachcomber.news

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