Since the Safer at Home orders were issued by Governor Gavin Newsom in March, the DLBA Board of Directors has been working nonstop to address the needs of Downtown businesses and help them navigate this unprecedented situation. This month, Downtown Scene highlights three Board Members who happen to hail from other cities, yet all came to cherish Downtown Long Beach for the same reason: its strong sense of community.
“I have always wanted to serve my community and I am passionate about the quality of the urban experience,” said Board Member Alan Burks, whose company, Environ Architecture, has been in Downtown since 1992. Environ’s innovative architecture, landscaping, and interior designs can be seen throughout Long Beach as well as Sacramento, Goleta, and many other cities. It also operates a division called CityWorks, which is focused on municipal projects.
Burks was born, raised, and educated in Chicago. He attended Lane Technical College Prep High School, which specialized in science and engineering. In 1970, he was admitted into the architectural program at the University of Illinois, from which he graduated in 1976. In 1980, Burks and a few college friends formed an architectural studio called Environ.
Burks settled in Long Beach in 1992 after moving to Southern California two years earlier. “My wife and I were pleasantly surprised to discover an urban ambiance at the oceanfront. We decided that this was where we wanted to be,” Burks said.
“As a DLBA Board Member, I’d like to assist in expanding the vibrance of the Downtown Core into the West Gateway area,” said Burks. “It is beginning to happen as more creative companies like mine move to the West Gateway.”
Board Member Laurie Gray has sweetened the lives of many since she moved to Long Beach from Seattle; her Downtown dessert shop, The Pie Bar, is well known for its tasty assortment of sweet and savory pies. Recently, as the public health crisis developed, Gray began the “Pie It Forward” program, in which donors can purchase pies online and have them delivered to nurses, doctors, first responders, food banks, and senior communities.
“I am a graduate of the school of life,” Gray said. “After graduating high school, I was hired by a credit union and worked my way up into management during my 17 years of employment. Leaving that career behind, I moved into non-profit management and development for several different organizations. In the fall of 2014, I had an opportunity to follow a dream and start my own business, and The Pie Bar was born.”
Gray was inspired to become a DLBA Board Member because she wanted to make a difference and have a voice in her community. She has served on the Board’s Public Safety and Executive Committees and is currently the Chairperson for the Special Events and Sponsorship Committee.
“Neighbor helping neighbor from all walks of life,” is how Gray described the Downtown community. “You can never be bored in Downtown because there is always a variety of events to enjoy,” she said. “My favorites have been the Taste of Downtown and Summer and Music’s Buskerfest. I look forward to a time when we can all enjoy these events again!”
Board Member Todd Lemmis is one of the six founding partners of the Long Beach-based investment and development firm Pacific6. The company’s Downtown presence is pervasive: It owns The Breakers Hotel, the Ocean Center Building, Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal, Park the Van Records, Pacific Ocean Aquafarms and several affordable housing ventures.
Lemmis, who holds a Juris Doctorate from the Southwest University School of Law, grew up in Barrington, Rhode Island. A professional musician since age 15, he performed twice at the Newport Jazz Festival before becoming a member of the United States Navy Band for one tour of duty.
“My diverse background has made me a bit of a jack of all trades at Pacific6,” said Lemmis. “I formerly led Molina Healthcare’s Human Resources department, which prepared me to oversee Pacific6’s HR department. I’m also part of the design and development teams for both The Breakers and the Ocean Center. In addition, I am the liaison with government entities and community organizations as well as being a co-lead in our affordable housing group.”
Lemmis is proud of the way the DLBA Board has responded to the current health crisis. “The Board, particularly Kraig Kojian and the Executive Committee, has been working tirelessly to support and address the needs of businesses and individuals in the Downtown,” he said. “They’re doing yeoman work and deserve much credit and gratitude from all of us.”
All three Board Members encourage Downtown stakeholders to get involved with DLBA and have a voice in the community. As Todd Lemmis says, “Just show up at the Board meetings and events, grab a microphone to get your voice heard and get in the game!”