September 30, 1994 - From the September, 1994 issue

Paternoster: Long Beach is Pursuing a Vision

Long Beach's Queensway Bay Plan, an ambitious project to revitalize the city's downtown’s waterfront, has been under review for the last year, and recently received a major push with the announcement that Kajima International has committed to build the first fourth generation aquarium at the West Coast. Recently, Robert Paternoster left his position as Planning Director for the City of Long Beach to be project manager for Queensway Bay. TPR presents an interview with Mr. Paternoster to update the latest efforts surrounding the plan and what it means for the City of Long Beach and the region. 

Mr. Paternoster, as the former Planning Director for the City of Long Beach and now the Manager for the City's Queensway Bay Plan, share with our readers the City's goals for this project and your expectations as its new Project Manager?

The idea is to make the downtown waterfront of Long Beach a major visitor attraction for the region, as it was when the Pike was here, and people shopped, enjoyed the beach and the area entertainment that was available. We think that by the turn of the century, we are going to be well on our way to making Long Beach the waterfront attraction in Southern California. 

How important is the Queensway Bay Plan to the economic revitalization of Long Beach as a fiscally viable city in the 21st Century? 

It's definitely an important piece. The Plan is the single most significant development opportunity facing the city today. It's the completion of our waterfront, the front door to our downtown. We believe that when it's completed, it will be a tremendous boost to the Convention Center and to downtown. We will then have the recreational and entertainment facilities, and an active and vibrant waterfront, which will contribute to the economic revitalization of downtown Long Beach. 

How has the Queensway Bay Project changed over the last year?

Last March, the City Council adopted a revised plan, based on their recommendations to the initial plan. The major revisions include keeping the Queen Mary where it is today; that is, over on the port side. Also, a larger portion of Shoreline Park remains. The preliminary plan eliminated Shoreline Park entirely in order to construct the new downtown harbor, while the new plan leaves about 55 percent of the existing Shoreline Park. The aquarium site has moved to the western end of the new harbor in Shoreline Park. There are also more detailed changes in Marina Green making it a more attractive park. 

Elaborate for us on the proposed Long Beach aquarium. Where is it in the planning/development process? 

Well, we're really excited about the aquarium. Initially, we did not see it coming on line until the project was well underway, because it is not easy to finance an aquarium. We were very fortunate though that Kajima International came to us and said, "We believe that the Long Beach shoreline is the best place in Southern California to build an aquarium." Kajima is currently developing an aquarium in Tampa, Florida, and would like to use a similar financing formula, selling revenue bonds backed by their AAA bond rating, and also guaranteeing the aquarium will be completed on-budget and on-time. 

Is the aquarium envisioned as a catalyst for the rest of Queensway Bay and what is your time frame for developing other related projects? 

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Absolutely. The aquarium is a major catalyst for the rest of Queensway Bay. When we did the Queensway Bay Plan, we recognized that the aquarium could either be a minor attraction which lives off the rest of the project, or it could be an anchor major attraction which brings people to the project. We've made the decision that it should be a major attraction. 

The difference in scale is that if we went for an aquarium that was a minor attraction, it would be about forty or fifty thousand square feet, whereas a major attraction aquarium is at least one-hundred-thousand square feet. We are looking at upwards of a hundred-fifty-thousand square feet for our aquarium. So it will be the only major aquarium in the Southern California area. We plan to sell bonds next May, begin construction in the fall, and open the aquarium in the spring of 1998. 

There is a lot of competition for tourism dollars in Southern California, especially along the coast from San Diego to Sama Barbara. How do you position Long Beach to be competitive, given all this competition?

First of all, Long Beach is in a unique location. We're really in the center of a huge market area and we don't even have to attract visitors from outside this market area, but, of course, we do. We are at the end of a freeway which links Long Beach equi­distant to Orange County and to the northern parts of Los Angeles County, so we can tap that local market area very well. 

I think we can position ourselves very well for the visitor who is coming to Southern California because of that accessibility. You can stay in Long Beach and enjoy the beach, and you can easily go to Disneyland and Universal Studios and Hollywood and so forth. In fact, if you look at some of the new Disney advertisements for Disneyland, you will see that they show our beach scenes. I think they appreciate the fact that visitors from the Mid-West want to go to the beach. So we have the opportunity to have people stay at the beach and go to Disneyland and other attractions, and because we will have attractions here ourselves, people will also spend a day here. 

Is the Queensway Bay Plan, as structured, suitable for one major developer or could it be broken up into parcels and phased for development? 

Either way. It's designed so that small developers can come in and the project can grow over time as the market support develops. On the other hand, if a single developer wants to come in and take on the whole project, and then, bring in other developers for the individual pieces, it can also be done that way. We are amenable to either process. 

We will be going out for RFP' s to the development community next spring. I believe we are going to advertise it both ways. So you can come in with an individual project or you can come in as a master developer for the entire project.

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