Revitalization of Historic Ocean Center Building Could Form Missing Link Between Upper and Lower Pine

1 existingStanding tall and stark white on the southwest corner of Ocean Ave. and Pine Ave., the 1928 landmark Ocean Center Building has long been an undeniable eyesore, at least on the ground level.

Dilapidated outdoor furniture from its days as a nightclub or hookah lounge sits abandoned and unused; torn curtains and layers of dust signify failed attempts to electrify the daunting hill between upper Pine Avenue's bustling dining and entertainment and the Pike's retail appeal. Convention center attendees rarely brave the desolate climb to Ocean Ave. and onward to upper Pine Ave., perhaps because from the bottom of the hill, there is no life to be seen that proves it's worth the journey.

Thanks to the Design Director of Long Beach-based Studio One Eleven, Michael Bohn, AIA in partnership with David Gray Architects, all of this is about to change. From the ground floor retail space and up, the Ocean Center building is finally getting the make over it deserves, one that many hope will serve as a renewed linkage between upper Pine Ave., the Convention Center and the Pike.

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All images courtesy of Studio One Eleven at P+R Architects.

The preliminary plans have been approved by the Planning Commission and The Cultural Heritage Commission and an enthusiastic community of residents who are excited to see the next steps taken in the downtown Long Beach revolution. Studio One Eleven is responsible for designing Long Beach Airport's newest terminal, the Long Beach Senior Arts Colony, Berlin Coffee House's parklet and many other projects around the city.

"Construction is slated in June, so we're all really excited to reenergize this building," said Bohn.  

While the building has caught the eye of several developers and architects who harbored the good intentions and hopes of revitalizing Ocean Center, nothing ever seemed to take hold. Through the decades, demolition and neglect have wrought the building a complacent backdrop to the now up-and-coming downtown. Once a bustling oceanfront property, Bohn and team plan to restore it back to its lively, busy self.

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A coffee bar, wine bar combo is planned for the ground floor retail space, along with two proposed parklets to be staggered down the hill, along with added street trees. Multiple proposed pedestrian buildouts, like the outdoor seating at Utopia, will shorten the time it takes to walk across Pine and allow more space for people to dine, drink and congregate.

"Right now when you're at the Convention Center as a tourist or a visitor you look up Pine Ave. and there aren't any street trees, no life on any side of the street. It's just a hill," explained Bohn. "Upper Pine is vibrant, but you don't see that at the bottom. People are attracted to people. People want to see people. This will be a linchpin connection between upper and lower Pine."

According to Bohn, the western side of the building doesn't allow for retail, so the team has propsed to place loft units with patio fronting along the ground floor of the walk to still encourage pedestrian activity. Adding benches, hanging lights, new planting and other aesthetically pleasing outdoor elements should maintain that side of the building as a connection to the Pike.

"It'll be similar to the feeling you have when you're between the Promenade and Pine Ave.," he explained.

As for the rest of the building, Bohn continued, "We're going to be taking it from a class B office building that's only 30 percent occupied and from adaptive reuse, invigorating 80 to 84 units of apartments on the upper floors."

The revitalized apartments and amenities will be geared toward millenials, as is urban housing as of late, said Bohn. The building will have several community roof decks, including a seventh floor roof deck where a modern glass pavilion with a community room, a kitchen and a barbecue will be built to provide a hang out for the residents and their guests. The eighth floor deck will be designed for fitness purposes and will include a yoga pavilion, while the tenth floor deck, facing Pine Ave., will have a dog park and a zen garden.

History buffs need not worry, however. The Ocean Center Building will not be replaced with a modernized blight on our developing Pine Ave. existence. Bohn's appreciation for the building's historical significance is reassuring.

"I've worked with a lot of different architects and working with David Gray Architects has just been a pure pleasure," said Bohn. "I can tell that both of our hearts are in the right direction as he picks up the technical issues in the building. We're going to preserve as much as we can inside and that's really important to me, personally."

According to Bohn, there are a few hallways that will need adjusting, but he plans to put all the original doors back in place. He plans to save everything historic.

"We're assuming it's going to be about 15 months, maybe a little sooner, a little longer. When you're working on a newer building it's more predictable. But with an older building it's like going through your grandmother's apartment and opening up closets and finding who knows what."  

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Previous and current Studio One Eleven projects: Parc Broadway, Eco House for Children Today and the Lakewood YMCA.



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