Facade Improvement in Central Long Beach Revitalizes Neglected Block of Storefronts • Long Beach Post

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Photos by John Linden, courtesy of Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio.

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A full façade improvement has been completed at the corner of Anaheim Street and Long Beach Boulevard in central Long Beach, a block well-used and frequented thanks to the Metro Blue Line Station, yet clearly dilapidated and in need of improvements.

The project was made possible thanks to a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a federally-funded program used to remove blight and spur community development, while the site was chosen by the City of Long Beach as an area in need of a facelift. The project encompassed the renovation of four buildings and 13 neglected business storefronts running along Long Beach Boulevard and wrapping around the corner to Anaheim Street.

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A “before” picture of the location.

Santa Monica-based Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio (GP-US), world-renowned architect Gwynne Pugh’s firm, which he founded in 2010 to focus specifically on urban design, planning, sustainability and consultation, was awarded the architectural contract for the project through a formal request for proposals (RFP) process, according to Long Beach Development Services spokesperson Jacqueline Medina.

“This project has helped to enhance the appearance of a major transportation corridor; stimulate economic development; and leverage other City investments, such as the Long Beach Senior Arts Colony transit-oriented development and the Metro Blue Line Station,” said Medina.

GP-US has acted as urban design consultants to the city of Long Beach on numerous projects and used their civic intervention and urban renewal prowess to revitalize this key half city block in Long Beach. Pugh told the Post that the buildings already had some “pretty good bones to them,” so the revitalization became an exercise in clarifying the design aspects of the elements that already existed.

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“We were really trying to do an adaptive reuse of the fabric that was there and to make it a joyful and interesting set of façades that were individual, but also tied together with elements such as the canopies and with the signage systems so that there was both cohesion and an identity,” said Pugh.

In an effort to reactivate the street and transform the section into an area where residents and visitors alike want to spend time, the GP-US team did away with the roll-up doors that “had sort of a dead feel” to them and added windows in their place to make the storefronts more accessible, open and inviting, among many other improvements. Alongside the LED lighting in the canopies, public art was also added at the street level to enliven pedestrian activity.

Los Angeles street artist Hector “Shandu” Calderon was chosen to paint the mural you may have driven or walked by on Anaheim Street. It’s a colorful, non-objective piece in conversation with the colors used for each storefront.

Anaheim St Facade

“It’s a heavily Latino neighborhood through there and already there was a colorful nature to it and so we thought we would have a little bit of a playful time with that,” said Pugh. “And that’s how we developed that color sequencing to really create a podium over which the apartment units up above could sit.”

The vertically-oriented light sculpture set on Long Beach Boulevard is an additional piece of art designed by GP-US that is currently being completed by local fabricator Andrew Hernandez of A-Industrial Design-Build. The piece acts as a transition between the façades, according to GP-US, and adds an authentic, artistic element to the block’s now more unified identity. Local firm EGG Office designed the new, cohesive signage for each of the stores.

“This is quite an important location, inasmuch as it is the intersection of two very important roads, and of course there’s the Blue Line Station right there so people are looking at this all the time,” said Pugh. “Part of the idea was to reinsert into the neighborhood a kind of a pride over something that had a fresh and exciting and interesting feel to it.”

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Pugh said he’s received nothing but positive responses from the shopkeepers he spoke to after the project was completed. One store owner, who also owns a location across the street, was said to have expressed interest in revamping that exterior as well, but with his own dollars.

“We like working in Long Beach,” said Pugh. “We think it’s an interesting city with lots of opportunities, so looking to especially revitalize and make things more interesting from an urban design standpoint without it feeling stereotyped or banal is really important.”

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Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].

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