March 27th, 2019
San Pedro’s waterfront development gets a $30 million investment partner
n what is being hailed as a milestone by San Pedro’s waterfront developers, an equity finance firm in Spokane has committed to a $30 million investment in the $150 million project. The infusion, if approved formally by the port this summer, guarantees the completion of the San Pedro Public Market project’s design and permitting process.The developers released the information Monday, March 25.
The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners is expected to approve the deal with Osprey Investors in early July, setting the stage for what is still hoped to be a 2021 opening of the first phase of the development that replaces Ports O’ Call Village.
The investment was a significant hurdle, developers said.
“This is what gets everything else you need moving along,” said Alan Johnson of Jerico Development in San Pedro, the company that has partnered with The Ratkovich Co. on the San Pedro Public Market waterfront project.
San Pedro Public Market will have direct pedestrian waterfront access along its entire site and will feature portside dining, entertainment and recreational activity as shown. There will also be 600’ of day use courtesy slips allowing boaters direct access from the water.Image courtesy of RAPT Studio, lead project architect and James Corner Field Operations, landscape and urban designers
Outdoor concert venue for 6,000Developers also announced they have entered into exclusive negotiations with Nederlander Concerts Los Angeles to explore adding a 6,000-seat outdoor concert and entertainment venue, dubbed by Johnson as a “waterside” Greek Theatre, which Nederlander also has managed in the past with bookings including Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen.
News of the cash infusion comes as the Port of Los Angeles, the property’s landlord, begins laying the groundwork to build a town square in front of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and a promenade that will stretch along the linear development site next to the Main Channel.
It’s been three years since the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the 50-year lease for the new San Pedro Public Market on the site. But planning for the project dates back further than that.
“All these things just take an amazing amount of time,” Johnson said. “It’s been about seven years come this July since we’ve been working on it. If you’re in a hurry, real estate investment is not for you. … It’s just been a long expedition.”
Wayne Ratkovich of the Ratkovich Co. said the equity contribution “is a critical milestone in our commitment to deliver the centerpiece of the LA Waterfront’s transformation.”
Other financing will be needed but Johnson said that will be easier with this piece in place.
Bumpy transitionThe move to transition from the once-beloved Ports O’ Call Village into something newer hasn’t been an easy one.
As wrecking balls took aim at the 1960s waterfront attraction in the past year, some in the community began to question whether it should have been saved instead, especially the iconic Ports O’ Call Restaurant. Legal battles between the port and longstanding tenants didn’t help the emotional climate.
But the eclectic seaport attraction, once a dependable draw for tourists and locals alike, had been losing customers since the late 1980s. High-end shops moved out and were replaced by more trinkets. Its East Coast fishing village clapboard buildings were riddled with termites.
Johnson said he understands the sadness in losing Ports O’ Call, but remains confident that the new development will play the same significant role for the community’s younger generations.
Money, tenants materializing?Early responses to the proposed new development were favorable but more recently began turning toward cynicism as residents questioned whether the funding and tenants were not materializing.
Developers hope this week’s announcements put some of that to rest.
“We’ve heard (the mantra) ‘No money and no tenants,’” Johnson said of the growing frustration. “Well now we have money and we have tenants” — although final contracts have yet to be signed and announced.
Developers are talking with some local restaurant owners and envision “a mix” of those kinds of businesses along with some chain restaurants.
“It’s going to be about what’s going on inside the buildings,” he said, adding that the emphasis will be on bringing people back. “It’s going to be lively and it won’t be the same thing a year after we open.
But Johnson acknowledged it’s all taken longer than first believed.
“If someone had said this would take seven years (to reach this point) I’d have said, ‘No, that’s impossible,’” Johnson said.
Plans still ‘flexible”Plans for the development include restaurants, open space and shops along with entertainment areas. Ideas have evolved — and will continue to do so — as planning continues, Johnson said.
“We’re not stuck in our plans,” Johnson said, adding that some of the newer ideas were not around when discussions began. “Container kitchens, a dog-friendly place — seven years ago these were not ‘the thing,’” he said. “We have a lot of room for flexibility and we’re going to be nimble.”
Among the plans:
It also comes at a time when other development is coming into San Pedro, from a new brewery to AltaSea and several mixed-use projects all now open or being constructed in phases in the downtown/waterfront area.
“It’s our time to grab the golden ring,” he said.
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