An annual report released last week by Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) recorded six million tourists for 2014, $2 billion investments in real estate transactions and a potential increase of $42 million in new retail spending within a one-mile-radius of DTLB between 2014 and 2015, numbers that indicate a “renaissance,” according to the DLBA personnel who conducted the study.
The report is produced annually by the non-profit DLBA and draws from the district’s U.S. Census data and data from third party collectors that include Esri. It details the updated trends and demographics in a study that aims to draw more businesses to downtown Long Beach (DTLB), a city that 30,000 call home.
“From the boom in residential and commercial construction to the [city’s] vested interest in the importance of economic development by way of resurrecting its Economic Development Commission, downtown Long Beach is approaching the future with vision and assertiveness,” DLBA President and CEO Kraig Kojian in a statement.
The report says 53 percent of downtown Long Beach’s (DTLB) residents are under the age of 35, bike usage has increased 21 percent, and retail, restaurants, and professional services accounted for 75 percent of new DTLB businesses in 2014.
When breaking it down, DLBA Communications Manager Brian Addison said downtown’s increase in tourism, median income, total investment, and number of residents speaks for itself.
“There’s been continued talk about potential in Long Beach,” said Addison. “Now we’re moving beyond the talk and getting results. Downtown is truly going through a renaissance.”
The study found that downtown median income has increased 62 percent since 2000, from $32,048 in 2000 to $51,965 in 2014 and downtown median home values have increased 250 percent since then, from $92,866 to $325,254.
When looking at the numbers compared to 2013 and 2014, income and home value has remained relatively static.
“Nothing changes dramatically year over year,” said DLBA Economic Development Coordinator Tyler Kim. But “When comparing it to 2000,” Kim said there were dramatic increases.
At least one notable increase occurred between 2014 and 2015—retail spending potential. Kim said the $42 million increase was likely due to a number of factors, most significantly an increase in people’s disposable income overall, including an increase in visitors and an increase in downtown residents’ disposable income. The $42 million increase builds upon past retail spending potential increases, including a $100 million increase recorded between 2012 and 2013.
When it comes to retail spending and spending potential, Kim and Addison said tourism was “absolutely essential.” The six million tourists who visited in 2014, recorded in this year's report, stayed in line with the 6.1 million visitors recorded in the 2014 DLBA report.
Addison said tourists’ disposable income benefits the downtown core immensely.
“[Tourists] are far more willing to spend money when they do come,” Addison said. He added that downtown tourist destinations like The Pike help Long Beach “in a significant way, economically speaking.”
The study highlights another element driving change downtown: “resident champions.” Increased retail and bike use (remember that 21 percent jump mentioned earlier?) can be attributed in some part to the younger, wealthier residents living downtown who fit this psychographic profile. The study describes this “resident champion” as an individual with an average age of 32.4 and an average income of $58,900—54 percent of whom are male.
“You can describe them as typical—with one essential exception: their love for all things DTLB,” the study states. “Relatively comfortable in annual income with an average of nearly $60,000, these [downtown] stalwarts are vital cogs in the function and proliferation of local business.”
With 53 percent of residents under the age of 35 and 30,000 residents occupying over 13,000 units, according to the report, “resident champions” make up a significant portion of the downtown residential population. Beyond that, the residential population itself is something Kim and Addison see as force for downtown growth.
“Long Beach is keeping up with the idea that more people don’t want to drive,” Addison said. “More people are walking and working downtown—[I think it’s] great that the city’s providing the infrastructure.”
Kim said he was excited about the investment in downtown that is furthering opportunities for residents and businesses to find attractive home bases in the city’s urban core.
“We need people living downtown,” Kim said, noting that “adaptive re-use” projects have transformed the city’s empty buildings into homes and retail spaces. He said it wasn’t good when old “Class C” buildings sat empty downtown, and he was happy to see the spaces being re-purposed.
“It’s good to convert these buildings— it brings more residents in to support downtown businesses,” he said.
Investment downtown is occurring on a level the city hasn’t experienced in many years, according to Addison. He cited the Edison Lofts, 6th Street Lofts, and potential residential buildings in the new Civic Center as examples.
According to Addison, a larger residential population will attract more disposable income, which will attract more retail, which “will attract quality” in the heart of downtown.