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Projects to come out of our Placemaking Challenge—when each year, we hand out tens of thousands of dollars in grants in order for people to make their placemaking dreams more tangible—have always been hallmarks for us: The Children’s Gateway Garden and amphitheater at Cesar Chavez Park, Long Beach’s first ADA-accessible garden. The Welcome to Pine Avenue neon sign, just south of 8th on the west side of Pine…

One of the newest projects to stem out of the Challenge is dubbed “Step Back,” or what creator Katie Rispoli (of nonprofit We Are The Next) describes as an immersive experience for both residents and visitors of Downtown Long Beach.

“I’m so grateful that We Are the Next was chosen to receive a Placemaking Grant in order for this project to be made possible,” Rispoli said. “We’re bringing together talented Long Beach stakeholders and designers to create these viewers and their components, and supporting the Historical Society of Long Beach and the Long Beach Public Library through the use of their collections along the way.”

Recognizing the change in our cityscape over the last one hundred years, this project will entail creating and installing up to five viewing devices on various corners throughout Downtown. The viewing devices will each have a transparent historic photograph of their exact location installed within, and when looked through the user can align that photograph with the current buildings to see the contrast between then and now.

“When your Downtown is evolving as rapidly as ours, there needs to be documentation,” Rispoli said. “We all need to understand the short-term and long-term benefits and consequences of rapid change and growth, and I believe this project creates awareness and instills a love for the Downtown that was and the Downtown that will be.”

The locations of the viewers have been chosen based on pedestrian traffic, and all photographs used must align from the viewer’s exact location and focus on one existing building that remains easily recognized compared to its historic appearance. Each viewer will have a graphically-intriguing sidewalk graphic at the base bearing information about the featured building.

Current locations chosen will feature the Travelodge and Villa Riviera from 1st & Atlantic, the Psychic Temple from the Promenade at Broadway, and the Public Safety building from Broadway and Magnolia. The signs will be accompanied by a walking loop designed by City Fabrick to take visitors and spectators through the series while highlighting special points of interest throughout Downtown.

These viewers will intrigue visitors and captivate residents, passerby, and participating walkers in the legacy of Long Beach, building a deeper connection to our city. Participants in the walk will feel surrounded by community and sense the network of support which made an investment in bringing “Step Back” to life.

This sense of place would create an impression of security and safety that lingers with the participant, encouraging further exploration of Downtown Long Beach and a desire to return long after the activity is complete.

“Over the last year I’ve seen the spark of interest in the community when they hear about this exciting project,” Rispoli said. “Many of our supporters and followers are eager for us to begin installation!”

“Step Back” is a project conceived and put into place by We Are the Next with support from the Downtown Long Beach Associates and Intertrend Communications.