$100-million outdoor coastal mall replacing obsolete Long Beach hotel
A sprawling, run-down hotel near the water in southeast Long Beach is being replaced with a laid-back $100-million outdoor mall that will make food and leisure front and center.
The focus on providing experiences instead of goods at an upscale development near the water reflects the growth of online purchasing at the expense of conventional department stores and boutiques.
Although the vast majority of sales still take place in stores, retail developers and landlords are shifting their emphasis to dining, entertainment and a shared sense of community.
“We’re trying to reflect the changing tastes of consumers,” said Fred Bruning, chief executive of CenterCal Properties, the El Segundo company building the Pacific Coast Highway mall.
“We want this to be a place where people can open up their laptops and just ‘be,’ instead of being a place you’re only going to shop,” he added.
To that end, the center called 2nd & PCH will have deep outdoor roof decks with views of Alamitos Bay Marina and the Pacific Ocean, where visitors can have a drink or a meal, lounge or perhaps do yoga. It is expected to open in spring 2019.
“The upstairs is all about the views and the atmosphere,” said architect Rob Budetti of Architects Orange, who designed the complex.
A revamp of the 11-acre site has been in planning stages for several years. An earlier proposal that called for denser development including a residential high-rise and hotel was rejected by city officials, in part because of the potential increase in traffic through the surrounding neighborhood.
Reflecting its name, the property is on the busy coastal highway at 2nd Street, near prosperous enclaves such as Seal Beach and the picturesque island neighborhood of Naples. Alamitos Bay has slips for more than 1,600 recreational boats and is home to multiple yacht clubs.
To make way for the 220,000-square-foot mall, workers are razing the SeaPort Marina Hotel, which had seen better days as one of the city’s finest hostelries.
It opened in 1962 as the Edgewater Inn Marina Hotel, with 200 rooms, three restaurants, two cocktail lounges and a 24-hour coffee shop. There was a gift shop, liquor shop, nightly dinner dancing and catering for yachts in the marina.
Every room had a radio and television, The Times reported, and even “color television available to those who desire it.”
Guests to the sprawling Googie-style garden inn included Elvis Presley and the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs teams that met in the first Super Bowl in 1967 in Los Angeles, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
In recent years, however, the aging hotel was sparsely occupied and the property was “definitely underutilized,” Budetti said. It closed this year, but hotel owner Raymond Lin of Taki Sun Inc. remains a partner with CenterCal in the new project.
The developers are betting now on locals instead of tourists by catering to residents’ daily desires. The anchor will be a Whole Foods grocery store, not a department store.
About 35% of the mall’s space will be dedicated to food, including chef-driven bistros in casual settings, in keeping with the beach location.
People are often more inclined to leave home to eat than they are to shop, Bruning said.
“We are trying to reflect changing desires of consumers,” he said. “Food is even more important than retail.”
Malls across the country are making similar shifts as online commerce grows, said analyst Melina Cordero, head of retail research for real estate brokerage CBRE.
“Ten years ago when we wanted to buy something, we had to go to a store,” she said. “Now brick-and-mortar retail becomes a choice, a place that must convince people to come.”
Since their inception after World War II, conventional shopping malls dedicated as much as 80% of their space to department stores and apparel stores. Now those are two of the slowest-growing sectors in traditional retail as many shoppers replace mall visits with online purchases.
The old model doesn’t work anymore, Cordero said. Mall operators are responding in part by upgrading their food game and buttering up desirable restaurateurs with the favorable rent and other concessions that used to go to department stores.
“Restaurants are the new traffic driver, the anchor,” she said. “It’s changing the game for restaurants, to take malls seriously as a space where they can make a business.”
City planners hope 2nd & PCH can capture visitors from both Los Angeles and Orange counties.
“This is a retail project that is going to bridge both of those counties,” said Sergio Ramirez, deputy director of the Long Beach Economic and Property Development Department. “It should draw from Long Beach to Huntington Beach.”
The design of the mall also meets recently adopted city standards intended to preserve view corridors to the ocean by preventing construction of “super blocks” crammed with big-box stores known as power centers.
“We want a more fine-grained development pattern in new projects,” said Linda Tatum, a planning bureau manager for the city.
Plans for 2nd & PCH call for what architect Budetti called contemporary beach architecture, which will include brick, stucco, wood siding and other finishes to create the impression of an older beach town.
“It’s the kind of eclectic mix you would see in a main street built up over time,” the architect said.
The center is meant to seem like a neighborhood at street level, with landscaping and fountains. Upstairs, Budetti said, the builders are trying to conjure “a living room for Long Beach” with soft seating and intimate spaces.
The intersection of 2nd and Pacific Coast Highway, city officials said, is a gateway to Long Beach that warrants improvement.
“The 2nd & PCH development,” Mayor Robert Garcia said, “will revitalize one of the most important sites in Long Beach.”