Will SpaceX give a ‘ripple-effect’ boost to San Pedro? Many say yes – Daily Breeze

Has San Pedro hit the jackpot with Thursday’s SpaceX lease approval?

The buzz around town says it’s possible.

“It’s an amazing opportunity” for San Pedro, said Elise Swanson, president and CEO of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses will be developed and move in to support what’s happening at SpaceX, I think we’ll have new restaurants … Especially with the synergy with AltaSea and what’s happening there, it’s an important tech cluster (that is developing) in San Pedro.”

With Thursday’s Los Angeles harbor commission vote approving a 10-year lease with SpaceX for a future Terminal Island manufacturing plant the so-called “BFR,” a deep-space rocket, some community leaders believe the port town could see a boom in new development that already has begun with a rebuilt recreational waterfront and AltaSea, a marine research campus, underway.

From more diverse housing options to spin-off manufacturing service businesses and entertainment and dining, some San Pedro boosters foresee the dawn of a new era just around the corner.

And that, they say, means investors.

New development ahead

“SpaceX has elevated the game,” said Branimir Kvartuc, spokesman for Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino. “San Pedro has just become a lot more valuable.”

Construction already is underway on a 375-unit apartment building at 550 Palos Verdes St., a $24.5 million, seven-story mixed use project that will include outdoor dining. It is set to be complete in 2020.

It’s one of several residential developments planned in and around the downtown San Pedro area over the next few years. More could be coming, the council office said, with the news of SpaceX.

Bruce McHugh, SpaceX’s director of construction and real estate, told the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners on Thursday they only needed to look to Hawthorne to see how a rocket plan could impact the region.

SpaceX moved its headquarters into a massive former Boeing plant in Hawthorne in 2008.

“We came into Hawthorne and it was blighted,” he said.

Ten years later, Hawthorne is seeing a wave of economic development with the opening of two craft breweries, a future trendy Urth Caffe, multiple hotels going up and popular artist studios.

A high-density apartment complex was approved down the street from SpaceX. The median age of SpaceX’s 6,000 employees in Hawthorne is 31, McHugh said. Many millennial employees live with roommates. When production of the BFR begins at the Terminal Island plant in two to three years, 80 to 90 percent of the workers on-site will be engineers, McHugh said, and the rest will be technical and production staff.

Kvartuc said a range of housing prices will be needed to accommodate incoming SpaceX and other tech-oriented employees.

“We’ll need housing for all income levels,” he said.

Currently, San Pedro already has amenities to offer SpaceX employees who will be coming to Terminal Island, McHugh said.

When SpaceX founder Elon Musk tasked him with finding an oceanside location to build the BFR, he had to consider where workers will live, eat and how they will get to work. He said he was impressed with San Pero’s restaurants, bars and relatively affordable housing.

What about a ferry?

It’s also spurred talk about some new ideas for transportation and how to re-purpose some of San Pedro’s historic buildings.

Retired Los Angeles Fire Department Deputy Chief John Vidovich thinks it should prompt the return of a ferry service that would shuttle SpaceX employees from the industrial Terminal Island, once home to fish canneries, to the new San Pedro Public Market.

“I’m a great believer in history repeating itself,” he said. “This time it will be the technology sector replacing the tuna sector for job growth on the waterfront.”

McHugh could get behind that idea.

“If we had parking on this side and there was a boat that went over, that would be perfect because most kids would live right here on this side,” McHugh said.

That could mean taking San Pedro’s iconic ferry building back to its original use, however, an idea that was criticized in 2013 when it was suggested that a new waterfront home be constructed to house the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, which has been inside the building for years.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers passed through the Streamline Moderne building during the years San Pedro’s old ferry operated, from 1941 until the debut of the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the 1960s.

Vidovich’s idea is to turn the ferry building into a hub where people could catch a water taxi, dine and be a center of visitor information.

The SpaceX employees, he said, “are going to need a place to eat.” Driving over the bridge amid large trucks and other traffic would take much longer than a quick dash across the port by water, Vidovich said, suggesting that perhaps even the Ports O’ Call Restaurant, when it joins the new waterfront development, could be located at near the mainland arrival point.

“I’d like to think we’ll see a lot of little start-ups and tech incubators coming in here,” Vidovich said of the future.

The potential is for what he calls an “innovation district” in San Pedro, Kvartuc said.  “There is new value to everything now because of SpaceX.”


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