As Downtown Long Beach continues to adapt and recover in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) Board and Committees are engaged in many projects designed to increase vitality in Downtown. Shannon Heffernan, Senior Studio Director of Urban Design at Studio One Eleven, is beginning her third year on the DLBA Placemaking Committee. She and her firm are committed to Downtown’s revitalization.

“The reopening of Downtown feels great — the energy and buzz that had been missing during the pandemic is back,” said an enthusiastic Heffernan. “There is so much new development right now that will bring more tenants, businesses, and residents to enjoy Downtown. A silver lining of the pandemic was our ability to make quick changes to the public realm. Hopefully, some of these changes and shifts in mindset can carry forward as we continue to open.”

A native of Redondo Beach, Heffernan earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in City and Regional Planning with a Minor in Sustainable Environments from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). During the pandemic, she went back to school to earn an Executive Master’s Degree in Urban Planning with a concentration in Real Estate Development at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. She will be graduating in May of 2022.  

Heffernan and the other members of DLBA’s Placemaking Committee are engaged in finding healthy ways forward for Downtown businesses. “Our committee looks for ways to animate Downtown to support local businesses while keeping everyone safe,” she said. “This means fewer social gatherings and large events, but more opportunities to create interesting activations through parklets, art installations, and programming on more streets and underutilized public spaces in Downtown, such as Marina Green, that the community can enjoy at its leisure.”

This year, Heffernan wants to collaborate with local artists to build on the cultural diversity of Long Beach by bringing more art, such as creative crosswalks and murals, and sculptural elements, to the many public spaces in Downtown. She also would like to enhance pedestrian safety and walkability by focusing on Downtown’s rich network of alleyways. “These alley connections could serve as Downtown’s next generation of public spaces,” she said. “They are opportunities for cultural programming and art. Also, they could use some overall beautification, such as lighting, greening, and canopies.” 

Heffernan encourages all Downtown stakeholders to become involved. “DLBA has eight committees, each with different areas of focus,” she said. I would encourage Downtown stakeholders to volunteer on committees that interest them. It is a great way to get involved, sharing  creative ideas, visions, and ways to improve Downtown.”

A devoted traveler, Heffernan loves to visit new places for inspiration in city design and how to create public spaces that are inviting and enjoyable. “Before the pandemic, I traveled to Nashville, Sydney, Portland, and Philadelphia,” she said. “Portland is the land of craft beer, brick facades, and the best city grid I’ve seen. I’m hoping to use my inspiration to infuse my firm and the DLBA Placemaking Committee with new energy as we move forward. Each project we engage in is different, fun, and very rewarding.”