As part of its continuing efforts to support new and existing businesses in Long Beach, the city’s economic development department is carrying out a pilot program to refresh storefronts along Anaheim Street, Carson Street and Pacific Avenue. Approved in 2018 and now underway, the Business Corridor Improvement and Property Beautification Partnership Program has a long name but a simple purpose: making businesses look good.
Last February, the Long Beach City Council designated $450,000 to be split evenly among the corridors of Carson, Anaheim and Pacific. The one-time funding precludes major infrastructure changes but allows for painting, awning repair and the replacement of windows and light fixtures, Economic Development Officer Seyed Jalali said. “First and foremost, painting is what we focus on. Most buildings, that’s probably the first thing you notice – cracked stucco, old paint,” he went on. “And then if funding is available, we focus on other elements of the building.”
With the Carson Street improvements completed in December, the department has begun work on Anaheim Street. The first business owner on the receiving end of these renovations praised the program. “It’s absolutely great,” Joe Santoro, co-owner of The Bed Post at 3143 E. Anaheim St., told the Business Journal. Santoro’s furniture store occupies the first floor of the building, which was completely repainted in about a week’s time. Santoro said the expense was out of reach for his small business, which has leased the space for two years. “Obviously, money’s tight,” he said. “To have that ability [to repaint] with a program like this . . . was awesome. I can’t say enough about it.”
The property owner, Paul Forman, also expressed his satisfaction with the new paint job. He added that the two residential tenants who rent the second story of the building were pleased by the change as well.
Jalali said that, when possible, economic development partners with other municipal departments to carry out more advanced renovations. Tree removal in the Norse Village area off of Carson Street was completed in collaboration with the public works department, for example. To help stretch the limited funding of the pilot program, Jalali said that the department encourages property owners to contribute financially to renovations if they are able. In the case of 3143 E. Anaheim St., Forman paid to have the rear section of the building painted.
The economic development department plans to repaint three more properties in the Anaheim corridor, including two in Cambodia Town and one at the corner of Anaheim Street and Pacific Avenue. The property owner at 200 W. Anaheim St. is investing a “substantial” amount of money to help with restoration, Jalali said. “Those are the kind of scenarios we like: the partnership, the contribution from the private property owner.”
The business corridor improvement program was created to help fulfill the city’s Blueprint for Economic Development, a 10-year plan to “create economic opportunities for workers, investors and entrepreneurs,” Jalali explained. “It is a program that involves city investment, cooperation from property owners and, to the extent that we can leverage them, the business associations or business improvement districts.”
Kristine Hammond, executive director of the Zaferia Business Association, said that she worked closely with the economic development department to make property owners aware of the pilot program. “We welcome it with open arms to happen again,” she said.
Both Jalali and Hammond expressed a desire to see initial improvements on Anaheim Street spur improvements at neighboring businesses. “We’re really hoping for the domino effect where one business will see what improvements are done visually to that area, and then they’ll want to do the same,” Hammond said. In the meantime, she is encouraging Zaferia businesses to look into using other city programs to raise renovation funds, such as Kiva, a crowdfunding platform for obtaining microloans, and the city’s commercial improvement rebate, which offers up to $2,000 to business owners and commercial property owners for exterior improvements.