You may have noticed the many construction cranes silhouetted across the Downtown Long Beach skyline. They are working symbols of the Downtown construction boom, which accelerated following the creation of the Downtown Plan in 2012 and continues on schedule, despite the new regulations imposed following the arrival of COVID-19.
“We are as busy as we’ve ever been,” said Derek Burnham, whose consultation company, Burnham Planning and Development, has had a hand in scores of Downtown construction projects since he started in 2013. “If you had told me in early March that this would be the case, I would have thought you were insane.”
Sares Regis Group is one of several major developers engaged in construction projects throughout Downtown. They are currently working with Burnham on three residential buildings – two of which are under construction in the East Village, and one at Third Street and Pacific Avenue, which is nearly complete.
“Real estate in general is about taking risks,” said Burnham. “There must be confidence throughout the planning, approval, and construction processes that the project is going to work. These new residential buildings will help ease the ongoing housing crisis. We need those units.”
According to information supplied by the Long Beach Development Services Department (LBDS), 1,725 residential units and 32,606 square feet of commercial space are currently under construction, with similar numbers in the planning and approval pipeline. While the majority of developments are residential buildings and towers, many will also incorporate retail spaces, and plans are also in the works for multiple hotels. Click here to view LBDS’s interactive map of planned developments.
“It’s great to see the confidence in Long Beach, which the continuing construction indicates,” said Alexis Oropeza, Planning Officer for LBDS’s Planning Bureau. “Even though COVID-19 affected us, the [Planning] Bureau itself has pivoted quickly. We’re still processing new incoming entitlements.”
The new construction that perhaps says the most about the resilience of Downtown building efforts is the Shoreline Gateway Project at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue. Planning for the 35-story Shoreline Gateway Tower and its companion apartment building, The Current, began in 2004 by the real estate development firm AndersonPacific LLC and partners Ledcor, Qualico and Lantower Residential. Soon after the entitlements for the project were achieved, the Great Recession hit, and construction was put on pause. Shortly after that, the project ran into a funding crisis when then-Governor Jerry Brown dissolved the California Redevelopment Agency.
“The City was incredibly proactive during the Recession by asking, ‘What can we as an institution do now?’ Since the City created the Downtown Plan, we’ve seen explosive growth Downtown,” said AndersonPacific Executive Vice President Ryan Altoon, who is also a DLBA Board Member.
The City requested a design for the Shoreline Gateway Tower that was “iconic and striking,” said Altoon. “Originally we had plans for a 24-story tower. The City came back to us and asked, ‘Can you make it taller?’”
The tower will be the tallest building in Long Beach, topping out at over 400 feet.
On any given day there might be 100 workers on site, engaged in an intricate and carefully coordinated effort. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the tower’s construction period was extended to ensure safe distancing for all those workers, who each day sign forms at a single point of entry attesting that they don’t knowingly have COVID and aren’t running a fever. A host of cleaning services were brought to the site, along with additional restrooms and sanitation facilities. These measures do as much to instill confidence in the workers as they do to keep them safe.
When complete, the tower will take its place near the classic Villa Riviera and International Tower as a signature Long Beach edifice. “The harmony we see at that intersection that’s respecting the past while acknowledging the future is what we were trying to achieve,” said Altoon. “We are absolutely thrilled to be delivering a project of such high quality.”
Planners, developers, consultants and construction workers engaged in the many Downtown construction projects are teaming up to help Downtown Long Beach move confidently ahead, fulfilling a bold vision for a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future.