A $32-million promenade has opened in San Pedro in what port officials view as a key step in creating a vibrant Los Angeles waterfront.
Downtown Harbor and Town Square replaces a parking lot at the Port of Los Angeles with new public docks for recreational boaters and wooden walkways for strolling along the inlet. The promenade — off Harbor Boulevard between 5th and 6th streets — will host festivals, concerts and movie nights while providing a link between downtown San Pedro and the harbor.
"It brings the water closer to the people," said Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the area.
The 1.2-acre project is part of a broader vision for an extensive waterfront where families can dine and listen to music while watching mammoth cargo ships traverse the nation's largest container port.
The ambitious plan, estimated to cost more than $1 billion when completed in 2030, includes an eight-mile promenade, public parks and an extension of the 11/2-mile Red Car trolley line. Two years ago, a crafts marketplace debuted in a vacant 1944 naval warehouse. Next door, a brewery is slated to open early next year. And a $125-million upgrade of the Cabrillo Way Marina was completed in 2011.
A major part of the transformation is the redevelopment of the aging Ports O'Call Village where on weekends, thousands of visitors chow on seafood and sing karaoke, in both English and Spanish, along the water. But the faux New England fishing village has largely fallen on hard times.
Negotiations, though slow, are ongoing between the port and two private developers to revamp the 30-acre property.
Port officials see redevelopment and tourism as ways to diversify its revenue stream amid increased competition from overseas and East Coast facilities. The San Pedro waterfront has become less attractive for industrial uses amid environmental concerns and the rise of massive container ships, port spokesman Arley Baker said.
Cargo operations fit better at other parts of the port where mega-ships can move around more easily, he said.
"The waterfront historically has been pretty industrial," Baker said. "What we are trying to do with this L.A. Waterfront is to create a destination."
Part of the draw for both tourists and Angelenos will be the town square, which opened last month. Recreational boaters can dock free of charge for four hours, leaving their vessels behind to visit the adjacent U.S. battleship Iowa or other attractions.
Boosters also hope people will stroll up 6th Street to spend their dollars in the nearby downtown area that is being revitalized.
In sort of a coming-out party, the waterfront promenade will serve as an event space for the Tall Ships festival in August. Several majestic "Pirates of the Caribbean"-like ships will rotate through the new harbor during the five-day event. Visitors also can dine at food trucks and listen to mariachi and rockabilly performers.
James Brown, owner of San Pedro Brewing Co., is setting up a beer booth at the promenade during the festival. Recent new attractions to San Pedro, such as the craft marketplace and the battleship, have boosted business at the 6th Street brewery he opened 15 years ago, Brown said.
"These new things are helping change people's perception of San Pedro," he said. "We are finally turning a corner."