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    LB Redevelopment Agency Wins Award From CA Redevelopment Ass'n For Downtown CityPlace

    (January 25, 2004) -- LB's Redevelopment Agency has been selected to receive the 2004 Award of Excellence in the Mixed-Use Development Category from the California Redevelopment Association (CRA) for its downtown LB CityPlace project.

    In a City Hall release, LB Redevelopment Board chair Jane Netherton said:

    "We're extremely pleased that the California Redevelopment Association has confirmed our belief that CityPlace is an innovative project combining neighborhood-serving retail with residential units to create a new urban lifestyle in Downtown Long Beach. CityPlace serves as a catalyst for new development in the area."

    During City Hall's planning and approval phases for CityPlace (which replaced the defunct LB Plaza), a number of LB residents said the project (our paraphrase) failed to meet its full potential and others criticized its economic aspects. A grassroots "Plaza Coalition" comprised of members including Suja Lowenthal suggested alternative design elements...some of which were incorporated in the final project, although many were not. Ms. Lowenthal, daughter in law to Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal and Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, went on to win election to the governing board of the LB Unified School District.

    The CRA describes itself on its web site as a non-profit entity "representing redevelopment agencies and allied firms throughout the state of California in responding to legislative proposals and administrative regulations, providing member services, conducting training and professional development events, and providing public information regarding redevelopment law and activities. CRA is comprised of over 340 redevelopment agencies and 260 private sector companies such as financial institutions, redevelopment consultants, developers, and law firms that are involved in the redevelopment process."

    The CRA web site indicates its award process is based on nominations submitted exclusively by CRA members themselves and the projects must be from a CRA member city and part of a redevelopment project. The web site indicates the evaluation jury panel is comprised of "prominent professionals representing Redevelopment Expertise, Municipal Planning, Architectural Design, Redevelopment Law and Private Sector Development." It doesn't identify specific jurors for the 2004 awards.

    CRA's current Executive Director is John Shirey, who until 1993 was LB's Assistant City Manager. Mr. Shirey, who was not involved in the CityPlace project, exited LB to become Cincinnati's City Manager and, CRA's web site notes, took the lead in developing a master plan that led to the siting of two new sports stadiums, a major museum, a seventy-acre downtown park and a major mixed use development in the riverfront city. He stepped down from his Cincinnati post in 2001 in the wake of rioting over a police shooting.

    CityPlace was developed by Developers Diversified Realty, Inc...which is separately the developer of the Pike @ Rainbow Harbor.

    City Hall's press release says CityPlace "includes over 375,000 square feet of promotional and neighborhood retail uses and over 300 residential units on eight city blocks in the heart of Downtown Long Beach. Retail anchors in the project include Nordstrom Rack, Ross Dress for Less, and Walmart -- the first ever in an urban setting with structured parking."

    The City Hall release continues:

    The [Redevelopment] Agency/City-sponsored project also includes for-sale loft condominiums, as well as a variety of shops and restaurants on the street level with market rate apartments above. The project serves as the northern anchor in the [Redevelopment] Agency's Downtown revitalization efforts and provides an effective link to the Promenade and Pine Ave.

    CityPlace replaced an obsolete enclosed mall and allowed for the reintroduction of city streets around and through the project. The development team was able to successfully integrate promotional big box uses into an urban environment through innovative design and negotiation.

    The project includes 2,400 spaces of structured parking, converted from a single garage into three separate structures. At the same time, CityPlace invites pedestrian traffic and is conveniently located next to a Metro Blueline station. The project also includes a state-of-the-art full-service grocery store -- the first in 50 years in Downtown Long Beach.

    CityPlace includes several public art elements -- a new permanent home for THe Found Theater, the preservation and restoration of an historic tile mosaic, and the creation of two new mosaics by a prominent local artist.

    CityPlace meets all of the criteria for the award -- from reinforcing existing urban development patterns and creating new pedestrian oriented patterns, to effectively integrating with surrounding land uses. To be eligible for the Mixed Use Development category, the project must include the functional and physical integration of at least two significant revenue producing uses -- in this case, residential and retail -- into a single development in a functional and aesthetically pleasing manner. The project is helping to realize the goal of creating a vibrant, 24-hour Downtown.

    The CRA award will be presented at a luncheon in conjunction with the group's annual conference, March 10, 2004, at the Doubletree Hotel Monterey.

    Reached for comment on the award, former LB resident Dr. Colette Marie McLaughlin (who earned her Ph.D from U.C. Irvine with a dissertation on LB redevelopment) said redevelopment in California diverts $2 billion a year from other public uses.

    She opined, "While California is having major financial difficulties, the CRA arranged this event to enable public servants to utilize redevelopment funds to attend such self-congratulatory ceremonies in resort areas."

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