Central Long Beach scores $14.5M in state funding for park improvements, wellness center

MacArthur Park in Central Long Beach could see a renovated sports field and expanded playgrounds thanks to an infusion of millions of dollars in state funding approved by the California Legislature this week.

The $14.5 million also includes money for a new health and wellness center in Cambodia Town and a center to assist business owners in the area.

Councilwoman Suely Saro, who represents the area, said the investment is rare and would improve the quality of life for residents.

“I’m thrilled there’s a mega investment in Central Long Beach,” she said.

The $262.6 billion state budget proposal approved Monday night by the Legislature  is currently on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

MacArthur Park

The state’s budget sets aside millions of dollars for open space projects and park updates citywide, and among them is MacArthur Park. About $8.5 million will be set aside for rehabilitation work at the park that serves families in Cambodia Town.

The Long Beach City Council approved a park vision plan In July 2019, which included updates to MacArthur Park including renovated sports fields, a playground expansion and a new lobby for the existing community center near Anaheim Street and Gundry Avenue.

Other improvements include the park walking path along the perimeter of the park, fitness stations, outdoor gathering places and public art installations.

Saro said the improvements would benefit the densely populated neighborhoods adjacent to the park for both recreation and youth intervention to help prevent violence in the area.

Saro is still waiting on approval from Newsom to disburse the funding, but she anticipated the projects will break ground at the park sometime in the fall or winter of this year.

Health center

Local clinic TCC Family Health and Wellness is set to receive $1 million in capital support for a new Health and Wellness site in Cambodia Town.

TCC clinic staff will operate the 18,000-square-foot health center, which is slated to be built at the corner of Walnut Avenue and E. Anaheim Street in the heart of Cambodia Town. Pacific Asian Counseling Services will also provide mental health support at the center, according to a statement from Dr. Elisa Nicholas, the clinic’s CEO. The development will also include 88 units of affordable and supportive housing.

Nicholas said the center is expected to open in 2023.

In 2019, the clinic served 40,467 patients citywide and approximately 1,580 homeless individuals.

Business incubator

To the northwest of the health center, just off Pacific Coast Highway, nonprofit Centro CHA and the city are partnering to open a support center to assist local business owners.

The state budget sets aside $5 million for the project.

“The proposed [Inclusive Business and Workforce Development] Center would provide space, technical assistance and access to capital for under-represented entrepreneurs in the city to help with business creation, job development, and workforce training,” according to a statement from Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, who represents the area.

Centro CHA first showed interest in creating the business incubator when the group entered lease negotiations for properties located at 1850 and 1862 Atlantic Avenue in April 2020.

Jessica Quintana, Centro CHA’s executive director, estimated that the project will break ground within a year and is expected to be open to the public in about two or two and a half years. She added that the properties need extensive remodeling work, which the state money would fund.

The nonprofit group has been investing in small business support for low-income communities over the last 20 years, Quintana said. The pandemic, which significantly affected Central Long Beach, has highlighted the need for business support and guidance.

“We have a high poverty rate in the community,” Quintana said. “It is important that we have community workforce centers.”

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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