OP-ED: Why the Dream of Pine Avenue is Becoming Reality • Long Beach Post

By Eric Gray | It’s no secret that the reemergence of Pine Avenue has been the dream of many Long Beach residents, visitors and business owners for years. Pine Avenue was once a major boon to the City of Long Beach showcasing many local favorite businesses like Newberry’s Department Store, Woolworth’s and Lockwood Furs.


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The City of Long Beach has a long and complicated history, however. Once the vacation spot for Hollywood elites and home to a vibrant middle class, the city fell on hard economic times. Due to the growing trend of suburban flight, the exodus of the Navy, and the subsequent loss of revenue, it seemed as if Pine Avenue and Downtown in general were down for the count.

Fortunately, the City of Long Beach started reinventing itself based on then-mayor Beverly O’Neill’s “3 T’s”: Trade, Tourism and Technology. Progress occurred. The Queen Mary was converted into a floating hotel and the Aquarium of the Pacific was built along with many resort hotels and a thriving Convention Center.

Positive change continued to occur while city entities worked hard to rebuild Pine Avenue into a vibrant destination. Urban developments like the Kress Lofts and the Walker Building were reborn, helping to preserve historic architecture while fostering a sense of pride in the community. In addition, the DLBA’s Taste of Pine, which still runs to this day, has helped to bring many people to the area who otherwise wouldn’t get to explore Pine Avenue’s flourishing restaurants.

Unfortunately, the great recession, the demise of the Redevelopment Agency and the nearby Pike development hampered progress significantly for Pine Avenue. And what had been accomplished was not enough for the street to sustain itself. Stores became empty once again, and the blocks north of the entertainment district became anything but a grand attraction.

All this is changing…

Enter the North Pine Neighborhood Alliance (NPNA) backed by the Downtown Residential Council (DRC). These residential groups provided the political power needed to get the Downtown Plan passed. The Downtown Plan allows the city to streamline the process of development in Downtown Long Beach using a model that is both predictable and aesthetically pleasing.

Molina Healthcare was the first development to take advantage of the Downtown Plan, and the community couldn’t be more excited. In June, 400 new Molina Healthcare employees started working on Pine Avenue with the promise of 500+ additional employees to start in the future. The economic benefits to local businesses is paramount. Each day, professionals from Molina Healthcare search out new businesses in which to dine, grab coffee, shop and enjoy the available services. The businesses closest to Molina Healthcare on 6th St. and Pine Ave. are bound to see the bulk of foot traffic.

Next, enter the Historic Old Pine Avenue Business Association (HOPA). This business association founded by a few active residents and business owners was started with the intention of bringing small businesses together on Pine Avenue to not only address common concerns, but also to guide Pine Avenue into becoming the epic centerpiece of Downtown.

With revolutionary-style thinking, HOPA has and is achieving incremental success. Third Fridays Twilight Walk, a monthly event showcasing retail, art, music, food and wine is bridging community members and businesses together in a positive spirit. HOPA is also showcasing its “Party on Pine” series.

According to Barbie Sommars, event coordinator, “in collaboration with Cultural Alliance Long Beach (CALB) and Millworks, Party on Pine is producing a series of events in an effort to reactivate the upper Downtown area of Pine avenue, specifically the 500 – 800 blocks of the street. These events will call attention to existing art galleries, local businesses and the available storefront areas where future businesses can make their home.” Lastly, the Bungalow Building through CALB hosts a variety of events that add to the cultural fabric of Pine Avenue.

Change is occurring in even the smallest of details…

Both NPNA and HOPA continue to work with the 1st District Council Office and DLBA to improve the neighborhood. NPNA has worked on a number of neighborhood improvement projects such as tree plantings, street banners, a local dog park, and the reporting of code violations. In the coming months, a newly designed “Welcome to Pine Avenue” sign will also be installed, thanks to the dedicated work of NPNA.

HOPA revolutionaries have worked hard to add additional trees, tree lights, sidewalk stencil and window decal branding and have coordinated the repainting of aging city infrastructure. HOPA is also planning to add festoon lighting and potted plants to spruce up an alleyway off Pine Avenue and 7th street in the coming months.

A major investment of change to happen…

Soon, in what will be a huge boon to Pine Avenue, the City of Long Beach will be implementing the long anticipated Pine Avenue Streetscape Project. This project with input from the community will be upgrading Pine Avenue from Shoreline Drive all the way north to Anaheim street. Elements of this streetcape project include resurfacing the street, enhancing pedestrian lighting, planting new trees, and providing seating, garbage cans, crosswalks, and more.

This investment by the city will give the final boost needed to see the reemergence of Pine Avenue happen. Economic conditions are looking bright for entrepreneurs wishing to open up shops on the street. With the growth of local residences, tourism, and business, Pine Avenue dreamers such as myself can now say with certainty that our dream of Pine Avenue becoming a bustling district is set to become reality.

Eric Gray is the founder of HOPA

More information on Third Fridays Twilight Walk visit facebook.com/pages/Third-Fridays-Twilight-Walk/208507449270810?fref=tsFor more information on “Party on Pine” series, visit facebook.com/partyonpine. For more information on Taste of Downtown, visit downtownlongbeach.org.

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