Developers on Thursday officially unveiled plans to build two 15-story buildings on the long-vacant Superblock property in Long Beach, which some residents called a welcomed sight, while others decried the development as too tall.
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Manhattan-based iStar Financial, a publicly traded company that will finance and build the luxury highrises, said the development will consist of 522 rental apartments and 11,500 square feet of commercial space that would consist of six to eight retail shops and restaurants accessibly only from the boardwalk. The 6-acre, 700-foot-wide beachside property would also feature 937 parking spaces, both outside, on both sides of the towers, and in a parking structure at the north end of the property that is bound by East Broadway between Long Beach and Riverside boulevards.
Representatives of iStar, armed with several oversized boards of blueprints and colorful artists’ renditions of the development, presented their proposal that seeks a height and density variance to the Long Beach Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday. The 160-foot buildings are approximately 50 feet higher than is allowable at the property, which was rezoned in 2002 to allow for a 110-foot building, city attorney Corey Klein said.
In answer to questions about the economic viability of the development, Karl Frey, iStar’s executive vice president, indicated that it was highly unlikely the company would abandon the proposed development, suggesting it had the financial wherewithal to follow through on its $200 million investment to finish the project and not leave the property vacant.
“We’re an extremely well capitalized investor,” Fry said. “ … Here, we’re acting as our own developer.”
Peter Scherer, an East Walnut Street resident, was among the opponents of the proposal that expressed concern about the height of the towers, calling them “too big.” Scherer continued: “We don't want to see them finish a project that we have to live with forever.”
Others opposed the project on their belief that it will exacerbate parking and traffic problems in town. “You cannot ignore the parking,” said Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), a 34-year resident of the West End. "This is adding pain to an already distressed area.”
Many people who voiced support for the development believe that the towers, shops and restaurants are the best use for the property, which has remained vacant for 28 years, and that it would provide needed tax revenue.
“I think this project sounds like a quality project that will benefit Long Beach,” said Karan Adamo, a Canals resident and local real estate agent, who noted that iStar’s targeted renters, retirees and young professionals, represent the growing demographics among new city residents.
Michael Kerr, president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, was another supporter.
“The building will be paying taxes greater than the existing vacant property is paying now,” Kerr said. “I believe the city will receive an additional $2 million and about $4 million additional for the schools.”
Thursday’s zoning board hearing was held a day after the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to approve a settlement between the city and current and prior owners and developers of the Superblock, the name locals gave the property when its development was first proposed in the 1970s. iStar, the present owner, and Philip Pilevsky of Philips International, the former lead developer of the site, were named in the city’s suit claiming millions dollars in condemnation costs and legal fees.
The zoning board trustees are expected to vote on iStar’s proposal at the next meeting on Feb. 27 at City Hall.