By Alexandra Burkhardt, Designer and Research Analyst for Studio One Eleven
For more than five years, Studio One Eleven has been analyzing Long Beach’s Second Street in Belmont Shore to better understand what makes a thriving retail corridor. Second Street is considered the most successful retail street in Long Beach, thus making it an excellent case study for how to create and maintain a prosperous retail environment and valued shopping experience.
As opposed to present zoning regulations, much of the original zoning that helped Second Street succeed – dense structures, mixed-use development, less intensive parking standards – would be impossible to implement today. In our study, we outline how Second Street maintains its thriving retail environment, explore the challenges facing the area and offer analysis to lay the groundwork for continued successful development.
Much of what makes Second Street so successful is its accessibility. Relatively convenient parking, frequent bus transit, newly-added bike sharrows, calm traffic speeds and synchronized lights allow those on foot, bike and car to travel safely in unison. Short block lengths and wide sidewalks help pedestrians navigate Second Street with comfort and ease, simultaneously creating an engaging pedestrian experience. Of the 154 ground floor businesses, thirty-five percent provide outdoor seating and dining areas – far more than other retail streets of its kind. Additionally, Second Street’s ground floor retailers are fifty percent neighborhood-oriented and fifty percent destination-oriented, allowing Second Street to serve the local community and the greater Southern California area equally.
The neighborhoods that surround Second Street have supported its shops for decades. While the population density is similar to the City of Long Beach, the housing density and income are significantly higher. The wealth of these neighborhoods helps support the retail environment of Second Street, and in return, many “Mom and Pop” shops on the street are invested in creating a fun and unique retail experience.
However, Second Street is not without challenges. Business owners and residents often disagree on parking – an issue both sides must work together with the City to address. Additionally, shifting economic pressures have created challenges and increased rents have made it difficult for independently-owned shops and local businesses. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance of local and non-local retailers – and preventing syndicates from buying up buildings from local families that someday subsidize rents for popular key tenants – appears vital for the continued success of Second Street.
The street’s physical structure has accommodated changing market demands. Its character, scale, and accessibility offer locals and visitors an experience other shopping destinations lack. With the rise of discount retailing and online shopping, traditional department stores and enclosed malls will continue to decline and retail will continue to evolve into smaller high tech, high touch shops. However, the unique experience of retail destinations like Second Street will continue to thrive. Whether society is being driven by virtual and visceral shopping demands or a desire to be immersed in quality food and beverage environments, Second Street will continue to provide a shopping experience uniquely its own.