Following the completion of the much-lauded Promenade, it seems the stepsister that is Pine Avenue will finally break ground next week for a much needed facelift of its own.
Pine is—or at least was—the thriving vein of Downtown Long Beach. The city, particularly through Redevelopment Agency (RDA) efforts, have attempted to restore it to its former glory.
The original RDA streetscape improvement plan began in 2009 with public meetings, culminating in a four-phase project: 1st Street from Long Beach Blvd to Pacific Ave; Pine Ave from 1st Street to 8th Street; Pine Ave from Shoreline Dr to Ocean Blvd; and a three-street final phase that included 3rd Street and Broadway from Long Beach Blvd to Pacific Ave as well as a small stretch of 1st Street from Linden Ave to Long Beach Blvd.
Of course, the dissolving of the RDA in 2012 left many projects such as these either in ruins (ArtExchange, anyone?) or realigned (the Promenade). Pine thankfully falls into the latter and instead of a massive, multi-street project thrown into four phases, the new Pine development will smartly focus on Pine alone and, even better, extend further north into the more unrecognized and underserved stretch of Pine.
The development will be broken down into in three sections: Seaside Way to Ocean Blvd; Ocean Blvd to 7th Street; 7th Street to Anaheim Street.
The southern section beginning at Seaside is commonly called “the hill,” a small, single block incline of what formally used to drop to waterfront before the Pike was developed. The area is in dire need of a facelift: these two crossways—Pine at Seaside and Pine at Ocean—were once booming with pedestrians and activities, with its peak getting some 4,000 pairs of feet crossing every hour. Following the downfall of the original Pike that ran along Seaside and the disastrous demolishing of the Jergen’s Trust Building in 1985, this stretch of Pine has remained for the most part dark, despite acting as a gateway to the Convention Center, the Pike, and the Aquarium of the Pacific.
That “dark” part was no joke—it can be literally dark and oftentimes tinged with a slight orange glow that makes one feel like they’re descending into the unknown. The installation of much needed pedestrian lighting and greenery through multiple trees is not just pretty—it’s essential. Though small, one can hope that these improvements will lead to larger, more grandiose plans (ahem, the Jergen’s Parking Lot, ahem).
The second section that stretches from Ocean to 7th along Pine is the so-called hub of Pine—or at least it desperately wants to be. It has seen its fair share of local and chain businesses come and go (Wasabi [now Octopus], Z Gallerie [now… Who knows?], Smooth’s [soon-to-be Bo Beau], Hooters [now featured at The Pike!], La Creperie [now La Shish]…) while businesses that have been extraordinarily successful elsewhere, such as Taco Beach in the Shore, have been struggling to captivate a customer pool with Pine locales.
As always, there is hope. After all, streetscaping isn’t the art of business but the art of access and beauty. And though the two are seemingly separate, they work in tangent. So it helps that, beyond streetscaping, famed San Diego-based Cohn Restaurant Group purchased the former Smooth’s building and is already renovating. It helps that the Molinas bought the former Press-Telegram Building in order to create a much-needed medical hub downtown. It helps that Dale Warner moved his Hamburger Mary’s location from Broadway & Alamitos to Pine between 5th and 6th, bringing in the LGBT community. And it most certainly helps that one block east sits the Promenade.
These business aspects help and what once felt futile is proving to be fruitful. After all, Pine will finally see three scramble crosswalks a la Tokyo—the beautiful ballet of people needing to get to where they need—at 1st, 4th, and 5th Streets. Those horrifying raised planters that take up awkward space? Those shall be gone. New bike racks? Done and done (maybe we can get Vogel to design some?). Street closures? Bollards will be installed on Broadway and 3rd. This is on top of sidewalk repair, refurbished traffic signals, new trash cans… As always, there is hope.
The third section is the one which will hopefully invigorate a rather excluded part of the downtown scene. North of 7th, Pine becomes very dark and very removed and even though it is a heavily residential span of Pine, businesses struggle due to the lack of people simply walking around.
In this sense, the stretch of entirely new lighting along the whole strip is not only a warm welcome, but an essential one. And of course, the addition of entirely new street furniture, trees, and bollards as well as an entire street resurfacing should make residents not only a bit more proud, but more apt to explore North Pine.
Maybe we can indeed restore Pine back to the good ol’ days.