Elements of Urbanism: Long Beach

September 8, 2011 9 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville visits the downtown of a dominant maritime center in the shadow of America's second largest city: Long Beach.

Tale of the Tape:

Long Beach Pop. 2010: 462,257 (City); 12,828,837 (Los Angeles Metro-2010) - (incorporated in 1888)

Jacksonville Pop. 2010: 821,784 (City); 1,345,596 (Metro-2010) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Long Beach (250,767)

Metropolitan Area Growth Rate (2000-2010)

Long Beach (Los Angeles): +3.75%
Jacksonville: +19.85%

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Long Beach (Los Angeles): 7,068.3 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,149.2 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2010

Long Beach: +735
Jacksonville: +86,281

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Long Beach: Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center (1989)  - 224,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Attached to Convention Center:

Long Beach: Hyatt Regency Long Beach (522 rooms)
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Long Beach: One World Trade Center - 397 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies:

Long Beach: N/A
Jacksonville: CSX (230), Winn-Dixie Stores (324), Fidelity National Financial (398), Fidelity National Information Services (426)

Urban infill obstacles:

Long Beach: Shoreline Drive cuts downtown Long Beach off from the waterfront.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Long Beach: Pine Avenue
Jacksonville: East Bay Street

Common Downtown Albatross:

A large number of surface parking lots and underutilized property.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Long Beach: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 78 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

About Downtown Long Beach

Things came to a crashing halt in 1933, when a 6.25 magnitude earthquake shook the town to its core. Buildings collapsed, roads buckled and within seconds much of Long Beach was reduced to debris. Yet, Downtown Long Beach was quickly rebuilt in the Art Deco fashion, an architectural style that defined the era and continues to interest architectural enthusiasts. In addition, a group of Pine Avenue merchants founded the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) and decided to launch a cooperative advertising campaign in the local newspapers. Spearheading the DLBA campaign was Harry Buffum, the founder of Buffum’s Department Store.

Throughout much of the 1940s, Downtown Long Beach continued to profit under the guidance of the DLBA. During World War II the area became a magnet for active servicemen returning from duty overseas, many of whom spent their free time at Pike Amusement Center. In its heyday, the Pike regularly drew 50,000 visitors on the weekend. One of the biggest draws was Charles Looff’s carousel where jeweled horses cantered just inches from the sand–across the midway from the Plunge bathhouse and the Majestic Ballroom, adjacent to the Jack Rabbit Racer roller coaster.

Things began to shift during the fabulous ’50s, which proved not to be so fabulous for urban communities. Downtown Long Beach was no exception. Post-war housing boomed as servicemen were discharged and suburban living became a way of life. Shopping took a turn for the worse in Downtown Long Beach as suburban shopping centers and malls became the new metropolises. Even the development of the 710 Freeway in 1951 fostered a symbiotic relationship with the growth of suburbs.

By the early 1960′s Downtown Long Beach, once a thriving urban center, was struggling. Many of the major department stores and retail anchors, including Walker’s, Desmonds, Howard Amos and part of Buffums, had vanished. To the astonishment of longtime retailers and their customers, vacant storefronts were slowly being replaced with adult movie houses and entertainment, which catered to the servicemen at the nearby naval base. As things continued to decline in Downtown, the DLBA forged ahead with its efforts to attract the clientele of pre-war America by maintaining clean streets and sidewalks, as well as hosting family-oriented events. In addition, the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency was established and the Long Beach City Council purchased the Queen Mary, the crown jewel of the Cunard Lines. The ship quickly became an icon, drawing millions of visitors to its storied decks.

While the 1970′s saw the Pike close, Downtown Long Beach revitalization was well under way. The RDA adopted Downtown as a project area and developed a Downtown Plan which addressed issues of growth. Construction of the Long Beach Plaza Mall, the Promenade, and the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center began. In addition, the first racing of the Grand Prix of Long Beach took place.

The 1980′s saw the opening of Shoreline Village and the development of the first modern high-rise hotel, the Hyatt Regency. Soon after, several large office buildings and more hotels were added to the Downtown scene. Multi-million dollar condominium developments along the Ocean Boulevard corridor and the development of the Downtown Harbor also played a pivotal role in the transformation of the central business district.

As the final decade of the 20th century dawned and the recession faded, Downtown Long Beach began to prosper once again. Office occupancy rates began to rise, Pine Avenue began to emerge as a mini restaurant row with the opening of new and exciting eateries, and the East Village blossomed as a burgeoning arts district. The Metropolitan Transit Authority began operation of its first light-rail train, the Blue Line, which linked Long Beach to Los Angeles. Long Beach Transit established a free Downtown Long Beach shuttle service. Southern California’s largest aquarium, the Aquarium of the Pacific, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and attracts over 1.4 million visitors annually.  And, in 1997, Downtown property owners voted to implement a property-based Business Improvement District to be managed by the DLBA.

At the start of a new millennium, Downtown Long Beach is once again flourishing. New retail and residential developments, such as CityPlace and The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, are reshaping the skyline. Economic growth also continues to expand as new businesses open and corporations relocate to one of Downtown’s many modern high-rise office buildings. And, even though the Pike and all its amusements are now just fond memories, Downtown Long Beach is appealing to a new and sophisticated generation with its fusion of culture and entertainment. These days, Downtown Long Beach sports some uptown flair as one of Southern California’s most sought-after urban destinations to live, work, and play.

Long Beach Overview

Since 2000, Long Beach began experiencing an urban renaissance sparked by $1.8 billion of private developments.  Over 6,000 residential units have been built or are in the pipeline which will cost $1.5 billion and bring 8,000 new residents to Downtown Long Beach.  Furthermore, there has been an investment of $240 million in new commercial development bringing 800,000 square feet of new retail space.

The two main economic drivers of Long Beach are the industrial port and tourism.  The Port of Long Beach is one of the world's busiest seaports, and the second busiest seaport in the United States. With 10 piers and 80 berths, the Port encompasses 3,240 acres of land and has facilities capable of handling the largest container vessels afloat (a quarter-mile in length). In 2004, the Port of Long Beach moved 145 million tons of cargo across its wharves, generating $100 billion in trade. An enormous revenue generator, the Port boasts the following impressive economic statistics:

$5.4 billion in local and state tax revenues.
$146.5 billion yearly in industry sales nationwide.
Port-related activities support 30,000 jobs or one in eight jobs in Long Beach.
$14.3 billion in annual trade-related wages.
The Port is a massive economic engine, generating 30,000 (one in every eight) jobs in Long Beach, 315,000 jobs in the five county Southern California region and 1.4 million jobs throughout the nation.  In 2004, the Port of Long Beach handled over 101 million metric tons of foreign cargo, or one-third of all the container traffic entering California ports. East Asian trade accounts for more than 90 percent of the shipments through the Port with top trading partners being China/Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

Managed by the City of Long Beach Harbor Department, the Port operates as a landlord which leases the facilities to private firms to operate, therefore, no tax revenue is required for the Port to function and rental income is reinvested into Port development.

The Port is planning to invest an additional $1.1 billion to improve and enlarge its terminals between 2006 and 2010. The Port plans to create five container terminals of more than 300 acres each and to build two other large terminals. The new terminals will have dockside rail (intermodal) facilities, which allow cargo to be transferred directly between ship and train. Such direct transfers eliminate the need for transfer from ship/to truck/to train, and speed deliveries between Long Beach and markets nationwide. The new 375-acre Pier T container terminal on portions of the former Long Beach Naval Station and Shipyard and the new 160-acre Pier S container on redeveloped Terminal Island oil field, have significantly increased new cargo handling capability. This expansion provides new and improved deep-water berths to keep pace with the new super tankers, assuring the area's continuation as the west-coast hub of international trade.

Additionally, tourism is a major economic driver for Long Beach.  The Downtown Long Beach area is bolstered by major tourist attractions such as the Queen Mary, the $100 million Aquarium of the Pacific and the adjoining retail development in the Downtown Marina area, Shoreline Village. A major expansion of the convention center was completed in late 1994 and now offers 334,000 square feet of exhibition space. Additionally, Long Beach is the annual host of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach which draws approximately 300,000 spectators and international attention to the city.

With over 5.5 million people, a combination of day and overnight visitors currently visiting the City of Long Beach, tourism currently generates over $1.75 billion each year to Long Beach’s economy. These dollars can be directly attributed to meetings, conventions, tour groups, tourists and day visitor expenditures. In fact, over $400 million in meetings and convention business is held in Long Beach each year. Direct spending generated by convention attendees, tourists and day visitors is currently concentrated throughout the Downtown core area (within five blocks of the Convention Center and hotels) and along the more defined and developed retail/entertainment corridors. Over 1.9 million people go through the Convention Center annually for performing arts, special events, sports activities, trade shows and conventions.

For the fourth consecutive year in a row, Long Beach continues to lead Los Angeles County in occupancy growth and ADR growth. Transient occupancy tax collections, a tax on the room rate paid by the overnight tourist, has increased over 49%. Most of this collected tax is invested in city development and the general fund to support police, fire and public works for citizens of Long Beach.


Queen Mary Seaport (Queensway Bay)

RMS Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line (known as Cunard-White Star when the vessel entered service). Built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland, Queen Mary along with her running mate, the RMS Queen Elizabeth, were built as part of Cunard's planned two-ship weekly express service between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York City. The two ships were a British response to the superliners built by German and French companies in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Queen Mary was the flagship of the Cunard Line from May 1936 until October 1946 when she was replaced by Queen Elizabeth. The vessel also held the Blue Riband from 1936 to 1937 and then from 1938 to 1952 when she was beaten by the new SS United States.
Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936 and captured the Blue Riband in August of that year; she lost the title to the SS Normandie in 1937 and recaptured it in 1938. With the outbreak of World War II, she was converted into a troopship and ferried Allied soldiers for the duration of the war. Following the war, Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service and along with Queen Elizabeth commenced the two-ship transatlantic passenger service that the two ships were initially built for. The two ships dominated the transatlantic passenger transportation market until the dawn of the jet age in the late 1950s. By the mid-1960s the ship was aging and though still among the most popular transatlantic liners, was operating at a loss.
After several years of decreased profits for Cunard Line, Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. The ship left Southampton for the last time on 31 October 1967 and sailed to the port of Long Beach, California, United States, where it remains permanently moored.

Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific (formerly called the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit aquarium located on a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site on Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, California, United States. It is situated across the water from the Long Beach Convention Center, Shoreline Village, and the Queen Mary Hotel and Attraction.
The Aquarium sees 1.5 million visitors a year and has a total staff of over 900 people including more than 300 employees and about 650 volunteers.

Shoreline Park

Shoreline Village
Shoreline Village is a waterfront entertainment, shopping and dining destination on the east end of Rainbow Harbor.

Rainbow Lagoon

Located north of Shoreline Drive, between Shoreline Village Drive and Linden Avenue, this park is the remnant of Rainbow Lagoon by Auditorium Park before the lagoon was filled for the Long Beach Arena. Rainbow Lagoon is designed in a traditional Japanese style with two connected islands and surrounding park with high arched “rainbow bridges.” The area is turf, with accenting trees. The Hyatt Hotel built its pool deck to the Lagoon edge. Rainbow Lagoon is filled with seawater, and maintained at park level, above sea level, through pumps.

Long Beach Convention Center
Built in 1962 and expanded in 1994, the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center features 224,000 square feet of exhibition space.

The Pike at Rainbow Harbor
The Pike at Rainbow Harbor is located between the Long Beach Convention Center and the Aquarium of the Pacific. The tourist-oriented development has a large number of restaurants and a 14-theater megaplex Cinemark movie theater. There is also a 4-level, fee parking-structure, metered street parking, a pedestrian overpass supporting teaser artwork resembling a steel rollercoaster, an outdoor amphitheater, an antique Spillman carousel (1920) and a solar powered Ferris wheel.
Although the area has been developed into a retail-entertainment center that pays homage to its past as an amusement zone in name only, it has yet to become as successful as hoped. There continues to be controversy over the lack of a nearby recreational bathing beach and solutions are being sought for bringing back the excitement of the area’s heyday.

The Pike became a world famous Long Beach, California amusement zone in 1902 along the shoreline south of Ocean Boulevard with several independent arcades, food stands, gift shops, a variety of rides and a grand bath house. It was most noted for the Cyclone Racer (1930-1968), a large wooden dual track roller coaster, built out on pilings over the water.
The Pike operated under several names. The amusement zone surrounding the Pike, "Silver Spray Pier", was included along with additional parking in the post World War II expansion, it was all renamed Nu-Pike via a contest winner's submission in the late 1950s, then renamed Queens Park in the late 1960s in homage to the arrival of the Queen Mary ocean liner in Long Beach.

In 1979 the Pike amusement zone was officially closed and demolished. By the time the lease with the city ended, The Pike had fallen into disrepair and most of the businesses had already left. The City of Long Beach then removed the remaining structures. Various plans for development of the area took form over the next twenty years. In 1999, the California Coastal Commission approved a plan for the construction of The Pike at Rainbow Harbor commercial and entertainment complex in the downtown shoreline area.[3] The name is only a nod in reference to the original amusement zone, bathing beach and boardwalk - the outdoor shopping mall bears no resemblance whatsoever to its historic predecessor.

Pine Avenue

Long Beach Transit Mall
20,000 daily commuters use the Long Beach Transit Mall.  The mall opened in 1982 and now accommodates passengers taking Long Beach Transit buses, Metro Blue Line trains and buses and Torrance Transit.  The mall now has a new look at the Spring 2011 completion of a $7 million federal stimulus project that added new bus shelters, night lighting and upgraded landscaping to the regional transit hub.

North Pine

City Place Shopping Center
City Place straddles both sides of Long Beach Boulevard, with the bulk of the project located on the west side, and is bounded by Pine Avenue to the west, Elm Avenue to the east, Sixth Street to the north and Third Street to the south. Currently a significant amount of the retail component, comprising close to 450,000 square feet, has been leased and is open to the public.

City Place is worthy of review from both an urban design and architectural perspective, not only for its attempt to re-urbanize the site but also for its effort to integrate conventional suburban retail tenants, such as Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Nordstrom Rack and Sav-on into an urban setting. This tenant mix is clearly not focused on the 3000+ high-end residential units currently under construction downtown, but towards the middle-class that comprises most communities throughout the nation, including Long Beach.

The Promenade
The Promenade is a six block long thoroughfare in the heart of Downtown Long Beach that is anchored on the North by City Place, a development that contains 450,000 square feet of retail space and 341 apartment units, and the Long Beach Convention Center to the South which attracts 1.5 million visitors per year.  In between the two anchors are the following developments that comprise residential, retail, entertainment, restaurants, office and hotels.

Pine Avenue Restaurant Row
Located in the heart of Downtown Long Beach, Pine Avenue is littered with a diverse collection of restaurants, bars and retail shops.

East Village Arts District

East Village Arts District is the name of the eastern half of Downtown Long Beach, California. The borders are Ocean Blvd. to the south, Long Beach Blvd. to the west, 7th Street to the north, and Alamitos Avenue to the east. In 2007, the border of the East Village was expanded north to 10th Street.
The East Village is a mix of many different housing types, including high-rise condos, artist lofts and small craftsman cottages, as well as people many different cultures, income levels, and professions. The neighborhood has many independent stores selling everything from designer denim and specialty sneakers to used books and mid-century furniture. There are coffee shops which serve food, and restaurants featuring everything from crepes and sushi to chicken n' waffles. The East Village is also the city's arts district, with most of the independent shops, restaurants and galleries exhibiting work by Long Beach and Southern Californian artists.

For more images and information on East Village: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2011-jan-a-revitalized-downtown-east-village-arts-district

Article and photos by Ennis Davis.  East Village photos by Nicole Lopez.