The County of Los Angeles, having last week approved a blueprint for massive redevelopment of Marina del Rey, is moving quickly to solicit developers to bring the blueprint into reality.
Requests for qualifications are expected to be sent out by early summer, with the developer of the first of two major "catalytic projects" to be chosen by the county within 18 months.
"The two projects are much of the heart of the Asset Management Strategy as it brings a whole new focus on the harbor," said Stan Wisniewski, director of the county's Department of Beaches and Harbor.
The projects are envisioned to be catalysts for widespread redevelopment of the county's 800-acre marina property.
Wisniewski said his department is aggressively working on establishing specifics for the first catalytic project to be located near the eastern entrance to the marina, near Mindaneo and Admiralty ways.
"We envision a development that is similar to the Universal CityWalk, with entertainment and retail shops for the first phase of development," Wisniewski said.
The water-themed first project calls for a pedestrian promenade that would feature art exhibits and live music; a major unique landmark, such as an observation tower; and sidewalk cafes and galleries. The entertainment area calls for an IMAX theater, virtual reality rides and a docking area for a ferry to Catalina Island.
The second "catalytic" project is envisioned as a more relaxed, resort-type project at Mother's Beach, on the west side of the marina.
Family-oriented activities will be offered at the Mother's Beach recreation area, including boats-for-hire, sailing and windsurfing. Visitors would be encouraged to meander through village-like specialty shops, outdoor dining, public parks for concerts and open-air flower, fruit and fish markets.
Two areas that Wisniewski said are slated for updating under the plan are the seven miles of "bulkhead" (concrete wall separating the water from land). Much of that waterfront is currently inaccessible to pedestrian traffic, but that would be changed under the plan.
Although no developers as of late last week had expressed interest in pursuing either of the two catalytic projects, Wisniewski said he is confident that a significant amount of interest will soon surface.
According to Barna Szabo, executive director of the Marina del Rey Lessees Association, it's too soon for developers to come forward since the county hasn't actually defined which parcels of land will constitute the first project site.
"But the commitment from the Board (of Supervisors) is an important one, as it sets the stage for the next stage, which is when developers can begin to submit ideas," Szabo said.
County Supervisor Donald Knabe, in whose district the marina is located, said the board's approval of the plan is a milestone. "These provisions, and the fact that this is a unanimous vote, will hopefully allow the new (development) proposals and deals for new (lease) extensions and new leases to enjoy more support at the board when brought before it."
The marina property is currently segmented into 51 different leaseholds under 60-year lease agreements. Under the plan adopted last week, those leaseholders, most of whom are significant campaign contributors to county supervisors, will likely have to participate in an open bidding process or renegotiate their existing leases.
Additionally, the plan requires that a comprehensive appraisal of the land and water value of the properties be completed before granting any extensions or new leases.
Sherman Gardner, senior vice president with Culver City-based Goldrich & Kest, a marina leaseholder and owner of the 204-unit Marina Harbor Apartments, said any comprehensive plan to upgrade the marina area is important and long overdue.
"It's a shame that buildings that are only 30 years old look as they do now, but with an overall plan in place that offers the proper incentives to upgrade, the work can begin," Gardner said.
Some relatively minor refurbishment projects have already begun, including the remodeling of Islander Marina and Dolphin Marina apartments and remodeling of several restaurants.
Goldrich & Kest plans to begin development of two apartment buildings 60 units for seniors and another 68-unit building, both to be located on the north side of the marina.
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