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Mike Conway To Facilitate Former RDA Property Sales, Other Deals

By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer

March 26, 2013 - In an effort to support development in the City of Long Beach, city management recently announced the creation of a new position: business and property development director. Appointed to lead the effort is former public works director Mike Conway, who said his role is to facilitate some of the larger real estate deals coming down the pipeline.

Though the city’s announcement in February described Conway’s position as “dedicated to business enhancement and property development,” he told the Business Journal that the job description is evolving as needs are identified. “I want to kind of draw a line that I don’t intend this position to be a business liaison,” Conway said. “I don’t expect to address one-on-one individual businesses’ concerns regarding permitting, licensing, that sort of thing. I will absolutely link them with the proper parties and assist in that process, but it is not a hands-on thing that I will be doing.”

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On that level, Conway is a facilitator. The intention, he said, is to support development services in its revamping of the permitting process; support his successor, City Engineer Ara Maloyan, in revamping the public works permitting process; and work with business licensing in its new, streamlined process. When he is out working on disposition development, Conway said work is more hands-on.

“My thought is if businesses have questions – which I get all of the time – I can liaison them with development services, with business licensing, with public works,” Conway said. “I know everybody there, which I think is part of the benefit of my position, and I can get them in to the right people to make decisions often over the counter which, again, reduces risks and moves development along.”

The primary focus of the city’s new business and property development director is on former Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA) assets. There are approximately 250 properties to be packaged and sold in a manner consistent with the former RDA project area guidelines. Collectively, those guidelines include strengthening the existing character of business corridors and neighborhoods as well as developing residential, commercial and industrial expansion, employment and economic growth.

“As mandated by legislation and subject to approval by the State Department of Finance, a Long Range Property Management Plan (LRPMP) is being developed for the disposition of former RDA-owned properties,” Amy Bodek, director of Long Beach Development Services, said in a statement to the Business Journal. “With an approved LRPMP, Mike’s extensive experience in development and real estate transactions will be of great value to ensure best outcomes of these assets – spurring economic growth and neighborhood revitalization.”

Though he is still developing a system for marketing these properties, Conway said he is considering working with the Council of Governments to reach a broader demand base while, at the same time, involving local brokers and local developers. “Once properties become available, I’m hopeful to have a website,” Conway said. “Then I will provide information to all of the interested parties.”

Former RDA properties aside, Conway is also involved in various real estate projects including the possible retrofit or re-visioning of the Long Beach Civic Center. A 2006 study on the seismic rating of city hall is currently being reviewed to recalculate the costs for retrofitting in today’s market. At the same time, the city is moving forward with a request for qualifications (RFQ) to find firms that have experience in public-private partnerships and visioning projects.

Some of the possibilities for re-visioning the civic center are: reducing the size of the main library; relocating the main library; incorporating the existing courthouse property; using the courthouse property to collateralize the cost of a new civic center; and including the Port of Long Beach in a new civic center.

“We’re just a couple of people here in city hall that have certain ideas, but we want to see what the world can offer us,” Conway said. “This is intended to be – like the Belmont pool – a first-class facility at some point in the future. So we want to have first-class people leading us through that process.” He said he anticipates the civic center RFQ to be made public this spring.

Conway is also working with the Queen Mary leaseholder on a framework for landside development and with Carnival Cruise Lines on a possible expansion project. Though he said he couldn’t go into detail on those projects, Conway said there is some tension between the two parties that “is going to take a little finesse.”