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Wrather Corp. Concept for Queen Mary Site : Port Endorses Ambitious Plan for Hotel, Shops

March 28, 1985|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Port officials have approved in concept a Wrather Corp. construction plan that would dramatically alter the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose site, adding a 350-room hotel by 1988 and dozens of specialty shops and a large hall for exhibits by international companies within 15 years.

Five or six office buildings with a total of 900,000 square feet would be built as the final phase of the new plan, but construction is not expected for many years, said Joseph Prevratil, president of Wrather Port Properties Ltd.

The new plan, endorsed by the Harbor Commission on Monday, replaces an even more ambitious Wrather proposal that was too much "pie in the sky" and not an effective working model, said Prevratil.

Unlike the $800-million initial plan, the new one calls for all construction on existing land, not landfill in the harbor, and excludes from consideration two marinas, three hotels and several restaurants first proposed.

Nonetheless, the new development probably will cost several hundred million dollars, including $35 million to $40 million initially for the hotel, said Prevratil.

Parking Lot Construction

Most of the new construction will be on what are now parking lots for the Queen Mary, Spruce Goose and Londontowne shops, and none of the new buildings will obscure or diminish the view of the Queen Mary from downtown Long Beach, said Prevratil.

The Queen Mary and new construction are designed to create a "bowl" effect from across Queensway Bay, with the ship at its center and the taller new buildings as its background, he said.

The 10-story hotel, which will be connected to the Queen Mary, will be no higher than the bridge of the famous ocean liner, he said. The office towers, one of which may be 25 stories, will be at the back of the site, separating it from port wharves and derricks, not the city's downtown.

Detailed plans for the hotel and a parking garage are expected by May 1, and two years of construction are scheduled to begin in 1986, said Prevratil.

The new hotel's 350 rooms, combined with about 400 on the Queen Mary, will make the hotels suitable destinations for medium-sized conventions, said Prevratil.

The Queen Mary has about 20,000 square feet of convention and meeting room space and 30,000 more square feet will be part of the new hotel, he said.

Convention Market

"This gives us the ability to be competitive in this middle (convention) market, which is the most growing segment of the marketplace right now," said Prevratil.

Wrather, a Beverly Hills-based company, will not begin construction of the development's second phase, which is to have 125,000 square feet of specialty shops, until the new hotel has been proven successful, he said.

The Festival Marketplace, as the second phase is called, will be northwest of the Queen Mary. Prevratil said it is intended to be similar to Harbor Place on the Baltimore waterfront and South Street Station in New York City with "very unique boutiques and fast-food operations and entertainment aspects."

If the Marketplace is a success, Wrather will build a 30,000-square-foot exhibition hall directly in front of the Queen Mary. Large international companies would display their wares there and also be invited to sell them from retail shops along a "main street" of businesses at the entrance to the hall and the ship, said Prevratil.

Companies such as Panasonic, Mitsubishi and IBM would be the type of businesses Wrather would expect on such a retail "street," according to Wrather's plan.

Businesses will be drawn to the location because of the approximately 3 million tourists, hotel guests and restaurant patrons now drawn to the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose each year, said Prevratil.

Wrather Corp. leased the Queen Mary from the City of Long Beach, which had lost as much as $3 million a year on it, in 1981. The attraction made a pre-tax profit for the first time in 1983 after the arrival of the Spruce Goose. Profits for 1984 increased to about $7 million, said Prevratil.

Wrather has spent about $40 million, including $10 million on the Spruce Goose, to refurbish and improve the site, he said.

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