Thursday, October 1, 2009

LA Port Approves $1.2 Billion for Civic Waterfront

In a marathon seven-and-a-half hour public meeting Wednesday, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a $1.2 billion redevelopment project of the San Pedro public waterfront abutting the port.

Despite overwhelming support from port-area residents and business owners, the port admitted that the 400-acre redevelopment plan could take up to a decade to fully implement. It also remains unclear which portions of the project would proceed first and the commission gave port staff 30 days to return with a project priority list.

A major component of the first phase of the waterfront upgrade is a new berth and terminal at the port’s World Cruise Ship Terminal. Disney has signed a two-year deal with the port to begin Mexican Riviera cruises out of San Pedro in 2011, though the ports said it would refrain from contractually committing any terminal exclusively to a specific line.

Port officials said that just less than 65 percent of the $1.2 billion would go toward connecting the waterfront area with downtown San Pedro, located blocks away. The downtown area has suffered a serious downturn for years and business owners hope that a more direct connection to the waterfront will turn the area around.

Funds would also be used to spruce up the Ports O’ Call shopping area at the waterfront by converting a parking area into additional shop, restaurant, park and convention space. A new green-topped parking structure would also be built.

Port officials anticipate funding approximately $900 million of the total cost of the project, with an additional $300 million being raised through private investment related to the Ports O’ Call redevelopment.

It remains unclear from the port’s presentation how the anticipated port portion of the funding would be obtained. Earlier this year the port reported that overall revenues, one of the primary sources of development funds, had dropped more than 30 percent.