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Tourist Harbor Recommended in Place of Shoreline Park : Development: Consultant proposes a marina and a shopping district that would connect downtown to the sea.


LONG BEACH — Shoreline Aquatic Park would be bulldozed and its lagoon dredged to create a bustling tourist harbor--perhaps with a new berth for the Queen Mary--under a proposal presented to city officials this week.

City-hired consultant Ehrenkrantz & Eckstut Architects also proposed developing the area from the park to Ocean Boulevard into a quaint district with shops and restaurants to connect downtown Long Beach to the sea.

A park, marina and cruise ship terminal would be built in the area that is now home to the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose attractions, said consultant Stanton Eckstut, who presented the plan Tuesday to a joint meeting of the City Council and the Harbor Commission.

The Queen Mary could be part of the development, he said, if officials want to move it closer to downtown. City officials plan to decide the fate of the money-losing attraction by the end of the year.

The consultant said his firm would work out the costs of the development if city officials decide they want to move forward.

Ehrenkrantz & Eckstut was paid $395,000 to come up with a downtown/port development plan designed to create jobs and tax revenue for the city.

Mayor Ernie Kell scheduled an Aug. 24 hearing for the City Council to decide whether to endorse or modify the preliminary proposal. Once the council makes its decision, the city's Board of Harbor Commissioners also must approve the plan.

The proposal drew favorable reviews from some city and port officials. "I think we need to move forward on this," Kell said. "We have a concept here. We need to do something."

But other officials were wary. Councilman Warren Harwood said the city should not eliminate a public park to make way for commercial development.

The 40-acre Shoreline Park includes a picnic and playground area. It is used for community-sponsored events, including the annual Lesbian and Gay Pride events, car and boat shows, and chili cook-offs.

"Cruise ships and marinas for $250,000 yachts do not serve the people of Long Beach and should not be the focus here," Harwood said.

The development would create a tourist port, conjuring up images of Baltimore Harbor, and perhaps even the waterfronts of Venice and Amsterdam, Eckstut said.

The area between Magnolia and Pine avenues, from Ocean Boulevard south to Shoreline Drive, would be developed with shops, restaurants and other businesses. Walkways and relatively narrow streets would contribute to the mood, Eckstut said.

Shoreline Aquatic Park would be destroyed to create a harbor for tour boats, paddle boats and other family recreation. Shoreline Village, with its restaurants and shops, would be incorporated into the tourist harbor, but its marina would be relocated.

Eckstut said the Queen Mary could be moved from its remote location in the port to the more accessible new harbor, which could breathe new life into the money-losing tourist attraction.

"Maybe that's a good shot to salvage it," Eckstut said.

The Walt Disney Co., which has operated the Queen Mary since 1988, will abandon the ship at the end of the year. The city is looking for another operator or buyer for the vessel, which needs $27 million in repairs over the next five years.

A cruise terminal would be developed where the Queen Mary is now moored. A park to accommodate events currently held at Shoreline Aquatic Park would be built, as would a small-boat marina.

Eckstut said Long Beach would probably have to foot the bill for creating the new harbor, but private developers would probably pay for most of the other improvements.

Councilman Harwood questioned the motives behind the Ehrenkrantz & Eckstut proposal.

The firm has been an architectural consultant to prominent Los Angeles developer Wayne Ratkovich, whose company is part of a venture that owns property south of Ocean Boulevard, between Magnolia and Pine avenues, that would become part of the potentially lucrative tourist port.

The developer had planned to build a $1-billion complex of townhomes, shops, restaurants and high-rises on 13 acres, the site of the old Pike Amusement Park. But the Pike project has been postponed because financing has dried up during the recession.

"They could make a lot of money if Ratkovich hires them as an architect," Harwood said. "I think it's a conflict of interest."

But Eckstut brushed aside the allegation, saying, "I don't see that this is based on Pike thinking."

Mayor Kell also dismissed the link as unimportant.

"If this ends up being a catalyst . . . we all benefit," he said.

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