December 30, 1995 - From the December, 1995 issue

Long Beach’s Queensway Bay Project Breaks Ground & Catalyzes Downtown

Long Beach's Queensway Bay Plan, an ambitious, three-phase, half-billion dollar commercial, entertainment and recreational development to revitalize the city's downtown waterfront area,  recently received a major push with a $40 million loan guarantee from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. 

The Planning Report presents an interview with Robert Paternoster, project manager for Queensway Bay, and former planning director for the City of Long Beach, on the status of the project and what Queensway Bay means for the economic future of Long Beach. 

Robert Paternoster was last featured in the September, 1994 issue The Planning Report: "Paternoster: Long Beach is Pursuing a Vision."


“I am pleased to say that by the summer of 1998, we should have most of the project south of Shoreline Drive completed—the harbor; aquarium and entertainment/retail development."

Bob, Please bring our readers up-to-date on the status of the Queensway Bay Development, and the City's updated expectations for its impact. 

The past year has been one of real progress on the Queensway Bay project. Last year we didn't know how we were going to fund the aquarium, or the tremendous infrastructure cost of Queensway Bay. Today we have answers to both. 

Last week we broke ground for the aquarium, for which we sold revenue bonds at 6.5 percent in a mailer of three hours. We're pleased that the finance community views Long Beach as such a viable investment. 

The aquarium is now under construction, and scheduled for completion in the summer of 1998. With regard to infrastructure, we were fortunate to have been visited two months ago by Secretary Henry Cisneros of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He left us with a $40 million check for us to proceed with construction of the Downtown Harbor, bulkheads, public esplanades, and landscaping. I am pleased to say that by the summer of 1998, we should have most of the project south of Shoreline Drive completed—the harbor, aquarium and entertainment/retail development. 

What exactly are the component elements that make up Queensway Bay development? What is the status of each? 

Geographically, Queensway Bay is divided into three areas: the South Shore, which is the area where the Queen Mary is now located; the Catalina Landing area, sometimes known as the North Shore; and the Downtown Harbor. 

The Downtown Harbor is rapidly gaining momentum, primarily because that area is our highest priority. The Downtown Harbor is the heart of the plan and the place where we want the critical mass of activity, within walking distance of downtown and our convention center. The Downtown Harbor is where we plan to have commercial boating activities, such as dinner cruises, an entertainment/retail complex, and the aquarium. 

In the Catalina Landing area we're locating some of the elements that are being displaced by the Downtown Harbor, including the recreational vehicle campground and a wildlife habitat in mitigation for the development of the Harbor. Two weeks ago we broke ground for the new recreational vehicle campground. The old campground was in Shoreline Park, where the aquarium is being built. Rather than relocate the campground as a public facility, which it has been historically, we went to a private developer to build the campground for us. 

Finally, the South Shore, where the Queen Mary is located, is to be the location of our 12.5 acre Events Park. The park will house a 10,000-seat amphitheater. Our intention is that it will be privately developed in cooperation with the Queen Mary. 

Recently, the Press-Telegram began its article about the project by extolling the virtues of the groundbreaking ceremony and by suggesting that Queensway Bay was a symbol of Long Beach's effort to convert itself from an aerospace, military and oil town, to a center of tourism and international trade. For the benefit of the other cities in the basin monitoring Long Beach's economic development efforts, how difficult has it been to make such a transition? 

Difficult may be the wrong word—it was a necessity. The project was not something that we chose to do, but with the cutback in federal funding for aerospace, and the changes in the world economy, we had to reposition ourselves. We asked ourselves: what are the strengths of the City of Long Beach? It was obvious to us that our main strength is our location, on the Pacific Ocean, and within the greater metropolitan area. 

That location allows us to fill two important economic niches. The first is world trade. The Port of Long Beach is now the largest container port in the United States. The second is tourism. The main thrust of the Queensway Bay project is to support the tourism market. 

A number of cities in the region are trying to review what their economic strategies need to be. Elaborate on the process for turning Long Beach in a new direction and uniting the city around that new direction. 

I think you need to start off by having a sufficiently centralized decision-making process, or at least a process for reaching consensus within the City, so that you can change direction. Long Beach is fortunate that it is on the one hand, a large city—the fifth largest city in the state—and yet, still a small town in the way it makes decisions. It is small enough that we can, in fact, sit down as a city and make a decision. 

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With a Council-Manager form of government, we also have the advantage of a consolidated power base. The city manager controls most of the city departments. Once a decision is made, the city turns abruptly in that direction. 

As a veteran of Long Beach's development and political process, are the tools of planning sufficient to spur local economic development? Docs the City have sufficient incentives to really draw in investment and stimulate job growth and the tax base? 

If you only consider the traditional tools of planning provided to a city by state law—no. Most of the tools available to planning are regulatory tools; they tell you what you can't do, but they don't cause things to happen. 

With Queensway Bay, we have taken the traditional planning tools and linked them with the more entrepreneurial tools that the city has through redevelopment and through local, state, and federal funding programs to provide incentives for development.

If you combine planning with development incentives, then yes—you do have the tools to make these types of projects happen. 

The aquarium and Queensway Bay, according to your projections, are expected to draw more than two million people per year to Long Beach, as well as to draw complimentary development investment. Are you now sufficiently progressed to feel comfortable that additional developers will be attracted to the Queensway Bay development? 

The aquarium is anticipated to attract two million per year. Overall, Queensway Bay is expected to attract five million visitors, many of whom are residents making repeat visits. Since the waterfront will be an open and free attraction, we expect residents to visit frequently with their families and friends. 

We feel that three elements are critical to attract development. Last year we completed the expansion to our convention center, which is now three times its original size, with 225,000 square feet of display area. Second, the aquarium is now under construction; and third, the construction of the Downtown Harbor is planned, and we now have the money to build it.

We feel that those three elements are sufficient incentive to bring developers here. They know now that the project is going to happen, and they know that it will attract people to Long Beach. I think that developers will see this as an unusual development opportunity for a waterfront attraction. 

A number of cities in Los Angeles County are often said to pay little attention to urban design. What role does urban design play in the Long Beach development agenda, and is urban design relevant and cost effect in the projects under way and projected in Queensway Bay? 

The Queensway Bay project is an urban design plan. It is of such a scale that it will affect the image of Long Beach and the way that people respond to the City when they come to it. The plan was prepared with the assistance of Ehrencrantz and Eckstot Architects, a major urban design firm from New York City with an office in Los Angeles. 

Lastly, a year from now, how do we evaluate whether the City has met the benchmark goals that you have set out for Queensway Bay? How will we know that Long Beach is making progress towards its economic development objectives? 

Certainly we have already met certain key goals. Within a year, the aquarium superstructure should be done: the Downtown Harbor should be under construction; and I would hope that we will have reached an agreement with a major development company for the 225,000 square feet of entertainment and retail which will ring the northern side of the Harbor.

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