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NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE: DOWNTOWN HUNTINGTON BEACH

FOCUS : Changes Afoot in Surf City's Downtown

January 12, 1989|Clipboard researched by Dallas Jamison / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Downtown Huntington Beach, wrapped by Palm and Ocean avenues and Golden West and 1st streets, is the heart of this surf-loving city. The majority of businesses lining Main Street--purveyors of wet suits, surfboards, leashes and wax--serve the young and not-so-young surfers who have come here for decades to catch classic waves off Huntington Pier. Sandwich shops and modest ethnic restaurants serve baggie-clad customers--in sharp contrast to the slick bistros that have sprung up in ocean-side communities just up the coast. Sure, surfing and the low-key life style it inspires are still king here, but change is coming to this slightly seedy, entirely original neighborhood.

Change of a sweeping nature is about to take place as a $200-million to $300-million redevelopment plan kicks into high gear. In the next 3 years, the face of this unassuming neighborhood will become virtually unrecognizable as scores of new shops and residences emerge from the residue of old brick and plaster. Within the next 30 days, ground will be broken on Pier Colony, a 100,000-square-foot extravaganza made up of restaurants, retail shops, places of entertainment and residences. Work on an 850-car parking garage is also due about the same time.

In March, construction will begin on the Waterfront Project, a conglomeration of four hotels and 800 residential units to be phased in over a 15-year period. The upcoming flurry of construction is all in addition to the 1,200 new condo, townhouse and single-family home units just completed and the 500 to 700 units already under construction. Even Huntington Beach's venerable but derelict old pier will be transformed in the months ahead. It will be torn down and replaced at a cost of $10 million before reopening this summer.

Plans for the redevelopment of downtown Huntington Beach have been hashed over in some fashion for almost 25 years, but it has only been in the last few years that city officials have been able to rally the resources necessary for such an ambitious face lift. Unanimous public support for all phases of the city's plan has also been slow in coming. Controversy over proposed beachside development, the demolition of state-designated historic buildings and the substantial increase in commercial rents is ongoing. Detractors of some phases of the city's plan worry that the neighborhood will lose much of its sleepy seaside charm--that the area will become nothing more than a pink-and-teal-stucco replica of so many other Orange County communities.

In a month, the rumble of bulldozers will fill the air as the transformation of a community begins, but today it is quiet. Just 50 yards from Main Street, a scattering of surfers bob silently in the chilly water like expectant seals, waiting for the next wave.

Population Population: (1988 est.) 6,678 1980-88 change: +10% Median Age: 27.4 Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino), 84%; Latino, 12%; black, 1%; other, 3% By sex and age: MALES: Median age: 27.6 years FEMALES: Median age: 27.0 years Income Per capita: $16,693 Median Household: $32,517 Average Household: $34,384 Household Distribution: Less than $25,000: 35% $25,000-49,999: 40% $50,000-74,999: 17% More than $75,000: 8%

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