San Pedro’s long wait for a redeveloped waterfront got a boost on Thursday, Nov. 21, following years of build-up and some delays that had created open skepticism in recent months.

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a series of waterfront items during its meeting, amid assurances that the development remains on track to break ground in March. The unanimous approvals came about two months before the Port of Los Angeles transfers the first parcels to the developer for construction.

Commissioners on Thursday acknowledged the process has been arduous at times.

“This has been a long haul,” said Wayne Ratkovich of The Ratkovich Co., the lead developer, who thanked port staff for its partnership on the complicated project. The items approved Thursday included the port sign-off on a longer land-lease agreement — from 50 to 66 years — and a $30 million investment infusion from an equity finance firm in Spokane, Washington.

The project, Ratkovich said, is now ensured “a long and successful life.”

The development, called The San Pedro Public Market, will be constructed where Ports O’ Call Village once stood. The opening of the project’s long-anticipated first phase is set for September 2021.

The meeting drew several public speakers from the community.

“I’m frequently asked when or if this will be built,” said Diana Nave, chairwoman of the planning and land use committee for the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council. “The bottom line is that they all want to see it built as soon as possible.

“This project has been a long time coming,” she added. “Let’s get the show on the road and let’s get the shovels into the ground.”

Dan Salas, whose Harbor Breeze Cruises operates whale watches and other public excursions out of the port, said he was pleased with the commission’s actions Thursday.

“What we want to see is a world-class project that will just blow everyone away,” he said. “Today is a good day.”

The new development will boast a 6,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, managed by Nederlander Concerts, which also has done the programming for the Greek Theater. It is expected to be ready to open as part of the first phase in September 2021.

The ambitious public-private partnership — using waterfront property — was never expected to be easy. It was, said Harbor Commissioner Anthony Pirozzi, like piecing together a quilt, with many twists and turns in moving the process forward.

“The most common comment heard around San Pedro is that nothing’s happening,” Commissioner Diane Middleton added. “Why don’t we see more progress to this point?”

Michael Galvin, director of Waterfront and Commercial Real Estate for the Port of Los Angeles, responded that “quite a bit” has been happening on the site over the past two years. In addition to the move-out of the remaining Ports O’ Call tenants — in what turned into a painful eviction scenario that embittered many residents — buildings needed to be demolished extensive soil remediation done. A marine refueling station also needed moving, a job that is now 99% complete, Galvin said.

“It was all part of the scope of work so we’d be ready to start construction,” Galvin said. “There is always something happening but the public is not always aware of it. Step by step, we are getting there.”

Asked if the hurdles and delays were now in the past, Galvin acknowledged that more bumps in the road can still be expected. But, he added, there’s more flexibility built into the schedule moving forward.

That flexibility comes, in part, from the commission approving — as part of Thursday’s package — some work overlap, allowing both the developer and port access to the property at the same time. The port is in charge of the project’s infrastructure.

The extension of the lease agreement from 50 to 66 years is meant to provide a more logical time frame to attract regular investments into the project. The idea, supporters said, is to avoid what happened to the 1960s-era Ports O’ Call Village, which fell into disrepair in the years following its opening.

Perhaps the biggest item the commission OK’d Thursday was the Osprey investment, which was initially announced in March. Osprey will provide $30 million to propel the project forward in exchange for an 80% stake.

Ratkovich and the Jerico Development Co. of San Pedro will still control the project and make all of the development decisions, Pirozzi said.

The project from the start, Renwick said, was going to require a major effort.

“If we were going to make this work,” he said, “we knew we had to move mountains and earth.”

To begin with, the location presents challenges of its own, he added.

“Every time you build a mall, you take one of those compasses and count the people in that area,” Renwick said. “The problem with San Pedro is more than half that circle is water and since orcas don’t show up at the mall, you don’t make money from them.”

The new development is expected to focus primarily on dining and entertainment, along with some retail.

The board on Thursday also awarded developer Griffith Co. a contract for the town square project, which will serve as the gateway to the waterfront project, at Sixth Street and Harbor Boulevard.

The 1.9-acre square will be constructed adjacent to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. Construction is set to begin in February, with completion expected in July 2021.

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