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Tourist Harbor Carries Price Tag of $550 Million : Economy: Private investors would finance more than half the cost. The city would issue bonds to cover its share.


LONG BEACH — It would be expensive, but a plan to build a $550-million tourist harbor looks like the right medicine for Long Beach's ailing economy, officials said this week.

The plan, designed by Ehrenkrantz & Eckstut Architects, includes an aquarium, amusement park, restaurants, shops and a cruise-ship terminal.

It would be built in phases over 11 years, creating 3,575 jobs and adding $275 million a year to the local economy, according to the consultant.

The development proposal was first unveiled last year, but this week marked the first time a price tag was attached. Of the $550 million, the city would pay for $250 million, while $300 million would come from private investors, according to the plan.

"I think it's a very exciting plan," Mayor Ernie Kell said Tuesday after he and the City Council received copies. "It will kind of rejuvenate the downtown area."

City Council members generally praised the plan and voted 7 to 1 to refer it to the city's Planning Commission and Redevelopment Agency for study and comment. Hearings are scheduled over the next three months to explain the proposal to the public and receive comments.

Councilman Warren Harwood voted against referring the plan to the two agencies and the public because he had not had sufficient time to study it, he said.

The City Council is scheduled on July 20 to decide whether to approve the proposal, which is patterned after a project in Baltimore that revitalized that city's harbor. The council could delete any part of the plan.

A key question remains: How would the city come up with $250 million to create the tourist harbor?

City Manager James C. Hankla said he will present a funding proposal in coming months.

"I'm really comfortable we will be able to do it," Hankla said.

The city is expected to issue bonds to pay its part of the development. Revenue from leases at the tourist harbor, new property tax money generated by the project and parking fees could be used to pay the bond debt, officials said.

While Hankla would not release names, he said a number of developers already have expressed interest in participating in the project.

The tourist harbor would be bounded by Shoreline Village on the east and Queens Way on the west. Shoreline Aquatic Park would be excavated and its lagoon dredged to make way for the new harbor.

A pier would be built extending into the middle of the harbor. The aquarium would be on the pier, and the Queen Mary could be moored on one side, if city officials choose to include the ocean liner in the proposed development.

The amusement park would be built near Queens Way, and a shopping and restaurant district would be developed between Magnolia and Pine avenues from Seaside Way south to Shoreline Drive.

Shoreline Drive, which has the feel of a freeway, would have its off-ramps removed. It would have stores and restaurants on one side and the pier and tourist harbor on the other.

The harbor would feature dinner, cruise and tour boats, with dining and entertainment lasting well into the night, and tall ships and museum boats would call.

A cruise-ship terminal would be built where the Queen Mary is now moored. A park to replace Shoreline Aquatic Park, and a commercial park would be near the cruise terminal.

In the later stages, the plan also calls for two hotels, an amphitheater and sports park.

Area roads would be improved to accommodate as many as 3,000 additional auto trips a day.

The city's $250 million would be used to pay for public improvements, including creation of the harbor, pier and cruise ship terminal.

Private developers would construct the amusement park and buildings for the restaurants and shops. The city would try to secure a grant or other funding to build the aquarium.

If the City Council approves the plan, the city then must secure permits from the California Coastal Commission and other state and federal agencies that would judge the development's environmental impact.

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