Allan Simon may be a relative newcomer to Laguna Beach, but he’s clearly smitten by his adopted hometown, owning several commercial buildings and the burgeoning Firebrand Media company.
Now, he’s investing in showcasing the town’s assets with a high-tech tourism center, One Laguna, using eye-dazzling digital displays to allow visitors to visually explore the seaside destination in a new way.
“From accommodations to shopping, from restaurants to entertainment, from coastal mountain hiking trails to the best beaches, One Laguna puts all of our spectacular city on display – and at your fingertips,” explained Simon at a well-attended opening reception at 225 Forest Ave. last week.
The center is the brainchild of his Laguna Beach-based Firebrand Media, publisher of newspapers, magazines and websites focused largely on the local community. By mining its archive of written and visual content as the backbone for One Laguna’s interactive screens, “we are championing Laguna Beach’s businesses while also testing the concept of privatized destination welcome centers,” says Steve Zepezauer, Firebrand’s chief executive officer and executive publisher.
While other cities may have an interactive destination center of some sort, none – including New York City – possesses a level of technology that allows the engaging and informational experience that One Laguna does, according to Simon and Zepezaur.
“While I’m not smart enough to fully imagine all the applications and how this might evolve, nor am I smart enough to fully understand the business model,” said first-time visitor Paul Freeman, a former council member, “I thought it was grand and I found it provocative in a positive way,” he said, as a collaborative way to increase tourism and enhance the visitor experience.
The second-floor, loft-style center is outfitted with a wall-size high-definition display for viewing films that is touch sensitive; table-sized tablets and coffee tables with touch screens for viewing interactive maps, historical photos and offers; four wall-mounted touch-screen tablets featuring a directory of restaurants, hotels, attractions and shops; and wall-mounted tablets to create photo-booth-style postcards.
“I thought the event was a great way to showcase restaurants in the area and the imagery and photography was stunning and really highlights Laguna Beach. One Laguna is a nice addition for the community,” said Peggy Trott, manager of Inn at Laguna.
One Laguna stands out from other experiential centers and museums that use multi-touch screens by deploying leading-edge technology and ever-changing content, says Jonathan Tavss, president of Los Angeles-based Scarlet Terrier Productions, a specialist in next-generation technology, who has watched the project’s development.
Visitors and locals alike will want to return to experience refreshed content and to receive exclusive special offers, predicts Marc Ostrick, who helped develop One Laguna’s interactive content. “The 300 historic images and 100 gigabytes of video and photo files at launch are just the tip of the iceberg in what One Laguna will offer guests going forward.”
In addition to art shows in the Laguna College of Art and Design space on the first level, live webcasts from One Laguna’s digital radio studio began streaming live last week. It features a range of talk shows and music.
Freeman suggested One Laguna needed to add a street-level lure to the center, “sorta like breadcrumbs helping lead people upstairs.”
One Laguna is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.