Urban Commons, the firm tasked with maintaining and repairing the Queen Mary, has a plan to complete critical repair work — but it’s unclear how the company will pay for it.
A city memo sent this week to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and members of the City Council included details of the plan, which Urban Commons Principal Taylor Woods estimated would cost between $5 and $7 million.
“We recognize that historic preservation will be costly,” Woods wrote in an Oct. 22 letter that was included in the memo, “and that it will require creative partnerships to develop the funding to make needed repairs.”
Neither Woods nor city representatives immediately responded to requests for comment on what those creative partnerships might entail.
The projects highlighted in the document as high priority included several items that Long Beach’s third-party inspector, Edward Pribonic, has called out in inspection reports over the years.
Urban Commons, according to Woods’s letter, has a plan to address issues with the Queen Mary’s exterior paint, expansion joints, standing water, rust, side shell and lifeboats.
In an interview with the Press-Telegram last month, Pribonic identified the lifeboats in particular as some of the “the most critical items” in need of restoration on the ship.
In his letter to the city, Woods said Urban Commons would complete a project proposal and estimated costs to address the side shell and lifeboats by the end of November.
In the meantime, work to repair the ship’s expansion joints has been ongoing, and the final phase is set to begin next week. Urban Commons is also scheduled to have a maintenance plan in place to address standing water and rust next week.
Pribonic did not respond to a request for comment on whether he finds the company’s plan sufficient to address his concerns. But both Urban Commons and city officials appear confident the Queen Mary is in good shape and only getting better.
“Since our takeover, we have been able to ensure the safety and security for guests and we are continuing to be committed to doing so,” Woods wrote. “We think we can all agree that the ship is in the best shape it has been in for many years.”
Long Beach’s Economic Development director, John Keisler, echoed that sentiment in an interview last month.
“I can say without any reservations that the ship is far safer than it was three years ago,” he said, “or the day before Urban Commons took over the contract.”
Urban Commons took over a 66-year lease of the ship in 2016, after a marine survey found the ship had been neglected to the point that its deteriorating condition was “approaching the point of no return.”
Long Beach cut a deal to pay $23 million for the most urgent repair work when Urban Commons assumed the lease, and the firm would cover the rest of the costs.
But that bill has grown significantly in the years since, and without planned revenue from the Queen Mary Island development — which has not yet broken ground — Urban Commons has had to reconsider how it would afford the hundreds of millions of dollars in remaining costs.
But, according to Woods’ letter, the company remains committed to finding a solution.
“Our organizational goal from the outset has been, and continues to be, that we collectively establish an updated and workable plan to ensure the Queen Mary is preserved and remains a majestic symbol of the city of Long Beach for future generations,” Woods wrote. “We look forward to continuing our joint efforts with the city to develop creative solutions that support this goal.”