Concourse Creates New Gateway to Long Beach

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Renderings of the new concourse, which will be partially powered by solar panels atop its roof. Images courtesy of the Long Beach Airport.

There is a sense of pride that Long Beach holds with its municipal airport—it is quick, simple and easy to access, even though more than 3.2 million fliers pass through it annually. But there are also gripes, mainly the porta-building shacks and chain-link fences that have been strewn along the tarmac for over a decade making the historic air field feel more like a police-state compound.

But Long Beach Airport is about to change all that.

“We needed to do something that both reflected history and showcased Long Beach,” Mario Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Long Beach Airport says of his airport’s modernization plan, which includes a brand new concourse that opens to the public ahead of schedule on December 5. “After all, this is your airport and it should reflect how environmentally conscious this city is; how supportive of local business this city is.”

The airport’s $45 million approach to the new concourse and upgraded terminal is one that, at least in the eyes of Rodriguez and the varying architectural designers, skirts being imitative of other airports with a feel is ultimately and unapologetically Long Beach. Breaking philosophically with large airports such as LAX, the new concourse eschews grand, unwieldy spaces in favor of palm tree courts, patios, fire pits and local businesses—the type of place and space that is both human- and Long Beach-scaled.

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At the center of this Long Beach-appropriate airport upgrade is the 35,000 square-foot concourse, a low-lying addition that expands the current waiting and concession areas while retaining emphasis on the historic 1941 art deco terminal building.

On the new concourse’s north end, popular Retro Row wine bar 4th Street Vine will have a location opposite McKenna’s on the Fly (a playful nod to its sister restaurant, McKenna’s on the Bay), which will serve as a chophouse and sushi bar. These two locations exemplify the SoCal feel LGB is reaching for: operable glass doors create either enclosed, intimate spaces or open spaces that seamlessly traverse patio-to-interior.

The Marche—LGB’s response to a food court—will host a concierge where guests pick up a basket, pick their dishes and dine on the patio or in a cabana on the terrace. Belmont Shore favorites George’s Greek Café, Taco Beach, Polly’s Coffee and Sweet Jill’s Bakery will all be featured here.

In addition, local apparel and accessories will be provided by the Long Beach Clothing Company and the Long Beach Business Journal will also have a store to offer up the latest news.

This is all notable for the fact that LGB is the only airport concourse nationwide that features this large of a percentage of local business. With the exception of a CNBC store on the north end, all concessions are from Long Beach-based establishments.

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Straddling the north and south hold-rooms of the new concourse is a 4,200 sq. ft. open-air garden and palm court complete with sustainable, vibrant, native plant life and was designed to take advantage of our coastal, all-too-perfect weather. Patio space, fire pits, cabanas and spots highlighting LGB’s history are strewn throughout the space.

“We are building a gateway to the wonderful City of Long Beach that is truly world class,” Rodriguez says. “And not world class because it copies someone else’s image of what world class is, but world class because it redefines it. Don’t think about a mini-Chicago-O’Hare but rather something out of Southern California Living magazine.”

Architecture aside, the most impressive thing about Long Beach’s new gateway is that there is, above all, an emphasis on good business practices and customer satisfaction. Anything for sale inside the concourse will be the same price as it would be at the non-airport establishments and LGB isn’t upping ticket prices to compensate for any of the upgrade’s expenses.

“Why?” Rodriguez laughs when asked how come he is leading LGB in this direction. “Well, beyond prudent financial management”—the airport’s recent parking structure was not only finished four months ahead of time, but $2 million under budget—”it’s because we want to treat our customers and Long Beach the same we want to be treated ourselves.”

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