What was once considered Long Beach’s premier music venue, showcasing performances by some of the biggest names in music, like BB King, Kanye West, Joe Walsh, the Killers, and Ghostface Killah, The Vault 350, located on the corner of Pine Avenue and Fourth Street, eventually hit hard times and morphed into another empty building.
Vacant for the better part of the last decade, Long Beach residents and Downtown businesses longed for the day when it would reopen its doors and headline the city’s music scene again. Despite its many attempts, and for a variety of reasons, no major movement occurred to recapture the vision, until now.
In what has been viewed as a surprise move by some; the building was purchased by Antioch Church late in 2018 and closed escrow last month. While the site will be used as a place of worship for the 2,000 strong Antioch congregation, the building will also serve as a multi-functional event facility for the community.
Having outgrown their previous location, Pastor Wayne Chaney Jr. and his wife Myesha searched for a new home. He envisioned a venue for all Long Beach’s residents to enjoy – not just his congregation.
“This place allows us to not only house our worship, but will also be a place that we dreamt about, having other offerings” explains Pastor Chaney. “We want it to be a place that houses broader experiences for people. Whether that is music that we are going to bring in, or regional arts, entertainment, poetry gatherings…to bring quality, notable voices to that venue and house events that the whole city is inspired by. The possibilities are infinite!”
Going back to the turn of the century, this location had previously housed a church and community center that showcased traveling entertainers. Later, the current building was designed by famed and one of only a few working African-American architects of his time, Paul Revere Williams. Designed to be the SoCal headquarters for the Bank of Italy, it eventually became a Bank of America. It then fell into the hands of the late Mitchell Stewart, who turned it into the musical venue, the Vault 350.
While the Downtown community has evolved since the building’s use became static, the transition for its proposed use is not foreign to City of Long Beach officials.
“In Downtown and greater Long Beach, the idea of buildings and communities evolving together is not an uncommon theme. In fact, it’s a vital part of bridging our past and future without losing our City’s character and soul. I think it’s a beautiful thing and it’s exactly what we are trying to do here as we plan out the city” said Christopher Koontz, Bureau Manager for the City’s Planning Department.
While some visions are strategically designed, others organically evolve through the work of community activists and engaged stakeholders. One of those individuals who serves as both, and so much more, is Michelle Molina, CEO of Millworks, who purchased the building in 2015 intending to return it to its former, musical glory. Unfortunately, that dream was never realized but after meeting with Pastor Chaney and his wife Myesha, Molina knew they’d be the perfect new owners.
“Having invested in Downtown since 2008, I am quite confident, the Chaney’s are going to be amazing neighbors” explains Molina. “If you just imagine the history this corner has created, Antioch is going to help write this neighborhood’s next chapter!”
Pastor Chaney explains that “we wanted to bring visual dignity back to that building. Pine Avenue is definitely an artery and source of pride to Downtown and serves as a first impression for people when they come into the city.”
The new construction, which has not yet established a definitive timeline, will not only be a space for Long Beach residents and visitors to enjoy, but it will also create jobs. At least 50 full-time construction and many more permanent jobs once the venue is operating.
What was once a forsaken and revered musical venue, has now become a place of entertainment, worship, and community. Antioch Church universal plans is to give back to the city of Long Beach, help its congregation, and add to the progress the Downtown community is experiencing.
While one cannot build a strategy on hope, Antioch brings a new level of confidence optimism and anticipation, while the community’s expectations continue to grow.