By Donna Littlejohn, The Daily Breeze
From the arrival of the USS Iowa battleship to the push to finish work on an inlet and plaza, progress on San Pedro’s waterfront has been noteworthy over the past year.
But there are miles left to go.
At 6 tonight, Port of Los Angeles officials will talk about where the project has been and where it’s going at an annual public meeting held to update the community on waterfront progress. The meeting will be at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Harbor Hotel in San Pedro.
“It’s always one of our most fun meetings, we get a big crowd,” said port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz.
Among the key topics tonight will be the redevelopment of Ports O’ Call Village, for years a mainstay along San Pedro’s waterfront that fell on hard times decades ago. The L.A. Waterfront Alliance, the development team now in exclusive negotiations with the port for the project, will unveil some of its preliminary ideas at a public meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Warner Grand Theatre.
There are about 20 days left on the original 240-day exclusive negotiation time period between the developers — The Ratkovich Co. and Jerico Development — and the port, which will likely ask for a 120-day extension.
“Meetings with them have been very good,” Knatz said.
But Knatz also will touch on the waterfront’s overall progress in 2012, a banner year for the project. Among the biggest hits: the World War II battleship that home berthed in San Pedro after years of discussion and an initial rejection by the port, which said there would be no room.
“They’ve actually exceeded their numbers that we’d forecast for the first year,” Knatz said of how the ship has done since arriving in July 2012. “We had forecast 220,000 (visitors) for the first year and they actually had about 330,000.”
Also opening in the summer of 2012 was Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, where first-year attendance was about 86,000, far below the ambitious 200,000 visitors initially projected.
The venue, Knatz said, will be diversifying by bringing in possibly a restaurant and/or brewery. A women’s roller derby team recently relocated to the remodeled warehouse.
“Part of building a critical mass is staging big events here,” Knatz said.
A visit in October by the famed Cirque du Soleil troupe at San Pedro’s outer harbor is expected to bring 46,000 visitors, Knatz said, and discussions are ongoing with other promoters to bring events “on the scale” of Cirque to the area.
One of the most visible projects through 2012 has been the ongoing construction on creating a new inlet — or water cut — and town plaza just north of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum at Sixth Street and Harbor Boulevard.
Work on the water cut is finished and the land-side improvements — the plaza will be able to hold 10,000 people for outdoor events and performances — will be done by next summer in time for a tall ships festival coming to the port in August 2014.
In Wilmington, work is underway on the Wilmington Marina Parkway, with a youth sailing facility and the Avalon Triangle Park set for the future. A Red Car museum also is planned in the old Bekins building, but rehabilitation has taken longer than anticipated on that structure, Knatz said.
It was 10 years ago in October that the port hired a New York-based architectural firm to come up with initial plans for a waterfront makeover.
Plans for a “bridge-to-breakwater” promenade with attractions were redone over the years. Work has been done in fits and starts, but progress has been back on track in recent years.
A remade Ports O’ Call, seen as a cornerstone of San Pedro’s waterfront, undoubtedly will be the focus of the next several years. Developers are expected to announce an anchor tenant in coming months as discussion continues on a possibe new name for the 30-acre site.