Long Beach's zoning board approved a plan Thursday night to transform one of the city's longest-derelict properties into a pair of luxury high-rise apartment towers.
The board voted 5-1 to pass a critical variance for the proposal by Manhattan developer iStar that would turn the vacant six-acre Superblock site into two 15-story luxury buildings with 522 units and 11,000 square feet of commercial space.
The vote was welcome news for city officials. The property, near the oceanfront boardwalk between Riverside and Long Beach boulevards, has been a target of city revitalization efforts since the 1970s.
"The tax revenue generated by this new facility will be far greater than the existing vacant property, and that is certainly wonderful news for all of us here in Long Beach," City Manager Jack Schnirman said after the vote, adding that the project will bring construction and permanent jobs.
The 160-foot tower proposal is taller and denser than present zoning allows, so iStar last month asked the city zoning board of appeals for the variance.
IStar already had approval to build two 110-foot towers with 425 units on the property, but company officials said they believed the larger proposal would be more profitable.
The zoning board's vote capped weeks of debate over the project. Several city leaders endorsed it as a way to revitalize an underutilized piece of land along the boardwalk. Residents who spoke at a January public hearing were split, with some backing the project and others criticizing it as too large.
Karl Frey, iStar's executive vice president, has said the project would be a "world class" facility that would add new commercial space to the boardwalk.
"It brings life to a block that's been dead for 30 years," he said during the January hearing.
Thursday night, iStar spokesman Roger Ardan said the developer looks "forward to being good neighbors and to starting on the single most exciting project on Long Island in 2014, showing that Long Beach is back and open for business."
The property was originally 13 separate lots with various owners.
The city council cleared the way for Thursday night's variance approval in January when it unanimously voted to settle lawsuits with iStar and the property's former lead developer, Philip Pilevsky, that had stalled development.
Long Beach Chamber of Commerce vice president Mark Tannenbaum said the chamber is "100 percent" behind the project, which he said "makes the boardwalk more usable."
The project will charge monthly rents ranging from $2,275 to $3,575, and could be completed by 2016, iStar officials said before the vote.