The project will be marketed to young professionals and “empty-nesters,” and is expected to attract approximately 800 to 900 new residents who will occupy the 522 units. The city currently collects $1.4 million in tax revenue from the Superblock, but will collect $4.5 million in revenue when the project is completed.
Residents packed the Park Sports Bar & Grill to hear details about the proposal from iStar Executive Vice President Karl Frey, who said that iStar will appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday to seek a height and density variance for a new mixed residential and commercial development on the 6-acre parcel between Riverside and Long Beach Boulevards, East Broadway and the boardwalk. iStar is looking to increase the height of the building by approximately 50 feet above the city’s current limit of 110 feet, making them the tallest structures in Long Beach.
The zoning board is not expected to vote on the proposal, and may make a decision at its next meeting, on Feb. 27.
The project would also include 938 parking spaces, mostly underneath the building, for tenants and visitors, entering from Long Beach and Riverside Boulevards. Frey said that the project would integrate with the new boardwalk. The yet to be determined businesses would only be accessible from the boardwalk, he said.
“We’re inviting the public into the space off the boardwalk, with a couple of shade structures and a little common area for folks to hang out, and have … retail on the boardwalk,” he said. “We don’t know how many stores will be in that 11,000 square feet, you can guess six or seven, it might be smaller if we have a larger restaurant take up one of those spaces.”
But the proposal raised the ire of some residents — including a few who live near the Superblock — who expressed concerns about parking and asked what sort of plan was in place to address the potential increase in traffic, especially in the summer. “You’re not familiar with how busy the Superblock already is in the summer,” said one resident, who called on iStar to come up with a better solution. “We have to fight now to find parking spaces.”
“It is taking away from our community,” said another resident. "What are views are, what it looks like right now, it makes it into Atlantic City.”
“We’re trying to have the least impact possible,” Frey said, adding that the buildings would take up less space than the previous project that the city approved, which iStar has the ability to build “by right.” Though the two towers would be taller, they would be “skinnier” and create more open space and allow for greater views of the oceanfront, Frey said.
“Although this project is taller, it’s set back much farther from Long Beach Boulevard,” Frey said. “We’re able to pull the building back off of Broadway by 50 feet."
"Our impact on the community is less," he added. "We’re trying to have the least impact possible, deliver the project that is the bare minimum acceptable for us to make the investment to build the project, and be as sensitive to the community that we possibly can.”
Frey said that 23 parking spots would be designated for the retail shops, and that most of the foot traffic would come from the boardwalk.
“This is not drive-to destination retail,” he said. “This is boardwalk-oriented retail; 23 spaces for this 11,000 square feet is more than sufficient.”
Others supported the project, saying that it will benefit the community.
“We would have had those horrible buildings up there already,” Karen Adamo, a local realtor and member of the Long Beach Historical Society, said of the previous project. “The property is valuable, it’s going to be used and yes, it may be the question of the lesser of two evils, but let’s try to work with them and compromise somehow because we would have been stuck with that old project.”
Cliff Skudin, who operates his Skudin Surf camp at Long Beach Boulevard, lauded the project and said he was given assurances by iStar that his business would not be “pushed aside.”
“All the things that were approved in the past, this obviously makes more sense because it is bringing in more parking spots and it is utilizing the space and bringing in a sense of community — it’s not going to be this huge hotel taking up all this room," he said. "Instead of pushing them aside and saying 'this isn’t going to work,' let’s work together. They’re bringing money and bringing things to the community, and they’re bringing life and something back here. I think it’s amazing. Let’s embrace it.”
Frey said that if the zoning board does not approve the new project, iStar would not move forward with the previously-approved plan, and would sell the property.