24 February 2010

Converting Dining Spaces to Restaurants...?

From The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, on this day in 1970:

Queen Mary Project Still Far From Final Completion


LONG BEACH, Calif (AP) - Back in 1967, this Southern California port city plunked down $3.45 million for the aged - but still glamorous - liner Queen Mary and figured on building an instant tourist empire. It is still a long way from its dream.

The idea was that by chipping in another $5 million or so for renovaiton [sic] the city could transform the liner into a royal museum and floating hotel.

Today the cost to the city has ballooned to $32 million and still not a tourist has stepped aboard the ship. In her present stripped condition the Queen is far from presentable and she may not be ready for another year.

What city officials didn't figure was that a first-class sea-plying ship does not make a first-class landslide tourist attraction - not without major alterations.

Alterations Needed

Originally the city planned to house museum exhibits in existing facilities of the famed British vessel, convert dining areas into restaurants and cabins into hotel rooms. But engineers who made a feasibility study reported that unless the ship was disemboweled there wouldn't be room for major extravaganza exhibits.

And, the report continued, the ship, purchases [sic] from the Cunard ship lines, needed to be connected to utilities:  it needed complex electrical wiring, an air-conditioning system, permanent linkage to the shore's sewage system and plenty of nearby parking.

"We were faced with a choice," recalls City Manager John Mansell. "We could have left the Mary in the shape she was and hoped that tourist interest in her would sustain itself. Or, we could turn her into a gala attraction - the kind people rave about when they get home. [sic]

Mansell cited these reasons for upping the ante:

First - the city could afford it. Unlike most cities of 350,000, Long Beach is oil-rich. It receives 15 per cent of state revenues from neighboring oil fields for a total of about $250 million over the life of the field. By state law, the money must be used for harbor or seashore improvement and the state lands commission has ruled the Queen Mary museum fits that requirement.

Business Interested

Second - the Queen Mary's potential as the nucleus of a tourist-convention complex awakened big business interest in the city. The prospect of 3.5 million visitors yearly brought feelers from many corporations about building hotels, commercial office buildings and the like in Long Beach. And such developments would produce new revenue that could be used for inner city development.

Third - undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau predicted that with proper alterations the Queen could house the largest maritime museum in the world. Her formed a company to design and build a museum that would tell the story in light and sound of the sea's potential, its inhabitants and history.

Originally the city's shipboard partner, Diner's Club Queen Mary Corp., was to pay for converting suites into hotel rooms, public areas into shops and dining areas into restaurants. The city was to pay for altering the ship's structure and fashioning a museum.

Diner's Club had proposed spending $3.5 million, but "like the city, we saw the advantages of upgrading the project," said president Fred Rosenberg.  "We've got some $10 million tied up in the ship and plan to spend millions more for related projects."

When the Queen finally is towed to her permanent home - a 16-acre landfill site at the tip of the city's 310 acre Pier J - her bow will face the mainland. Passengers on her starboard side will view the city's downtown convention area from across a narrow section of harbor where the Los Angeles River empties.

Protected from currents by a breakwater, the 1,019 1/2-foot-wide Queen will be the crown jewel of Long Beach's emerging skyline. An aerial tramway will connect her to the convention center, and a new bridge - the Queen's Way span - will bring freeway traffic directly to her.

Visitors will walk through a landscaped park to inclined walks and escalators leading to various decks.

The top six decks will include 403 hotel rooms, most of them completely rebuilt or combinations of old staterooms, as well as scores of specialty shops, meeting rooms and halls for conventioneers, bars and restaurants.

The museum will be housed on the lower six decks, in cavernous spaces created by removing such mammoth pieces of machinery as the ship's propellors, boilers and engines.

From museum admissions - the price is still undecided - commercial leases and parking fees as well as hotel bed taxes, the city expects to recover its full investment in about 14 years. The money is to be returned to the city's tideland's fund.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm it didn't quite go as planned.
    And where is the point in taking what was already a floating hotel and remaking it into a..well.....floating hotel?