The southeast corner at the intersection of Pine Avenue and Ocean Boulevard is a prime piece of Downtown Long Beach real estate, connecting the waterfront with the heart of the City, yet it was vacant and boarded up for 30 years. The Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA), in partnership with the City and local design firms, helped re-activate the space in 2016 with The Loop, a huge, swirling structure that served as an events backdrop and informal meeting place until its recent demise.
The Loop was a high-visibility effort by DLBA to increase appeal and value for Downtown stakeholders. Originally intended to be in place for 18 months, The Loop ended up occupying the space for almost five and a half years. “It’s a space that DLBA cares about and took ownership of, because it’s in the public eye and such a prominent Downtown location,” said DLBA Placemaking Manager Stephanie Gonzalez.
In 1919, when the Jergins Trust Building and its horseshoe-shaped driveway were completed, the building was a vital part of Downtown, housing the Superior Court and the State Theater. Just south of the building, the Jergins Tunnel, also boarded up for decades, was a fancy underground shopping mall with an arched ceiling and beautiful tile work.
In 1985, the Long Beach Planning Commission, intent on razing the building, rejected a measure that would have delayed its demolition, and it came down that year. The empty corner was boarded up, and remained that way for about three decades.
DLBA, leveraging the results of a study done in 2014 by the Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel, forged ahead with a proposal to re-activate the space. With the City’s approval and design work by the firms Gensler, Stereobot, and the BrightView Design Group, the walls came down and The Loop came to life in March of 2016.
With its eye-catching design, along with music and lighting custom-tailored for each day of the week, The Loop became an appealing setting for the music series Live After 5 and also Lunch at The Loop, along with countless informal gatherings of tourists and locals.
The Loop created a new social gathering space in Downtown that gave residents, visitors and workers a place to relax, socialize and enjoy the outdoors. It also served as an example of how property-based improvement districts use place management to work with the community to unlock value for Downtown stakeholders.
Unfortunately, the onset of the pandemic made The Loop vulnerable; Decreased pedestrian traffic created opportunities for vandalism and theft. A major water leak and subsequent shut-off compounded the problems. The final blow came during last Labor Day weekend, when a palm tree struck by a car toppled onto The Loop, causing severe damage. DLBA elected to remove it, not renew its lease for the space (which, coincidentally, was due to end soon), and focus on the next phase of the corner’s activation.
A 30-story hotel is slated for development at the corner where the Jergins Trust Building and The Loop once stood, but the groundbreaking date is yet to be determined. In the meantime, DLBA will continue to advocate that the corner remains open to the public and not boarded up again and that the space is maintained, landscaped, and available for the community to use for events and programming.
“We want to share our gratitude to the City and the community partners that have supported activation efforts from the beginning,” said Broc Coward, DLBA’s Chief Operating Officer. “We feel confident that the current shared vision of what this space can be and future interest in its use will continue to bring community organizations together in partnership with the City until the space is finally developed.”