Long Beach’s Desolate Pike to Use Outlets as Catalyst for New Growth

The all-too-happy rendering of the "new" Pike. Picture courtesy of EWB Development

In an entirely silent fashion, EWB Development–the nation’s largest outlet developer–suddenly created a small page that not only renamed the complex (“The Outlets at The Pike”) but touts that the dismal Pike shopping complex will be the new outlet hub for Los Angeles County and Southern California.

While it remains unclear how Vermont-based EWB became attached to the Ohio-based DDR-owned property that is home to 330,000 sq. ft. of retail space, it was quite clear that outlets are the newest attempt to reinvigorate the desolate space. A Restoration Hardware Outlet “Coming Soon” banner was plastered in front of what used to be the Club V2O nightclub–taking up one of 21 available spaces, of which EWB has listed Sperry, Coach, H&M, J. Crew, and a variety of others as coming soon.

The outlet concept is one that is inherently tricky given that most successful outlets lie not within major city centers, but along well-traveled paths on the way to city centers (think Cabazon on the way to Palm Springs or Primm on the way to Las Vegas).

If one tacks this onto the fact that Long Beach’s most successful areas–the Promenade, Belmont Shore, Retro Row, Broadway–are entirely or almost entirely devoid of chain stores, Long Beach faces a problem times deux. In fact, EWB’s Pike brochure lists the fact that there is “no competing national retail in close proximity” as a bonus point to incoming retailers–but one should raise an eyebrow as to why, in a city center full of tens of thousands above-average income folk, such brands haven’t succeeded. And it is most certainly not like they haven’t been here before: we all remember the slow disappearance of national consumer identities along Pine Avenue, two blocks up, with Z Gallerie having been the last remnant of such a presence.

This is not to say the change is being perceived as entirely pejorative or that the plan won’t work. Social media posts of the Restoration sign were met with general applause and at this point, Downtowners and Long Beach in general is begging to see something go in–and if that means outlets, so be it. Even during Grand Prix weekend, the empty halls of the Pike were a depressing sight.

More interestingly is the fact that EWB is not pitching this to Long Beachers–and this isn’t, per se, a necessarily bad thing.

Their entire entrepreneurial spirit via their brochure seems devoid of local cares but focuses–and this is probably a smart move on their behalf–on those from the outside or who are only visiting or working here. The company brags of the Pike and its surrounding area as being home to popular tourist attractions that bring in 5.5 million visitors annually, being adjacent to the busiest west coast cruise port, being the location of over 40,000 office employees, being 20 miles south of Los Angeles, being within 25-minutes of three airports, being accessible by freeway…

If that was the pitch by EWB to DDR, then they do deserve some applause because they understand, in the long (Beach) run, Long Beach citizens don’t want nor need malls. However, those from the Grand Prix, Pride, Zombie Walk, and the upcoming World Series of Beach Volleyball event that many are speculating will usurp all events as the largest in Long Beach… Well, they do. Those people, while enjoying the uniquely Long Beach aspects of Long Beach, also want name recognition and comfort they can partake in. And when a citizen here has an itch to grab some discounted designer off-the-rack hand-downs, well, we have a place we can jaunt over to.

In the end, let’s be honest: it is a far better idea than DDR’s once-a-time-ago pitch to bring–wait for it–a Bass Pro Shop to the Pike (because we all know that the vast mountains and lakes of Long Beach attract a plethora of anglers and the current ocean fishermen have absolutely no local resources). But a far better idea doesn’t necessarily amount to tangible success–and within the most disastrous retail build-up the city has ever seen, tangible success is no longer just desirable but essential.

As always with Long Beach, we shall see.

Note: This article incorrectly posted originally that Restoration was being placed in the former Vault 350 space.

  • Aubrey

    “The outlet concept is one that is inherently tricky given that most successful outlets lie not within major city centers, but along well-traveled paths on the way to city centers”

    ” they understand, in the long (Beach) run, Long Beach citizens don’t want nor need malls. ”

    Could you please give a specific reference on exactly where you are getting this data from? It appears speculative.

  • AVR

    Unfortunately this place is haunted by the ghost of the failed Disney bid from the 80s, cursed by the stale Queen Mary nearby, jinxed by the stagnant waters of the Long Beach Port/Harbor (thank you Breakwater!), and, worst of all, damned to financial Hell by the trashy clientele of the oh-so-revered Grand Prix

    The only hope for this once-glorious attraction is for it to tap further into the resources and brainpower behind the TED Conference held nearby.

    Oh and as far as any speculative claims made about what Long Beach needs, one only need live in Long Beach to understand that Addison speaks the truth. That or you could look to history: Long Beach Plaza Mall… GONE! CityPlace… WHAT A DUMP! Los Altos Shopping Center… nothing left there but a medical building and a handful of fleeing retailers.

  • Guest

    Yes, it is speculative on a certain level but also holds substantiation: as mentioned in the piece, two of the largest outlets (Cabazon and Primm) are located on the way to places, not within bustling downtowns (as are Tanger Barstow, Folsom, Shasta, Viejas, Lake Elsinore, Tin Cannery, Gilroy, Livermore… I can go on and on. Outlets within bustling centers, such as Citadel, are rarer than those on the outskirts).

    Secondly, Long Beach citizens not “wanting or needing malls” is simply a common sentiment expressed by many I know. This is substantiated on a larger level by the failure of The Pike itself. Do we want and need more shopping? Of course. In the form of a cookie-cutter mall? I am not so sure most would be keen on that. Something more ‘alt’ like the sadly shot down PCH+2nd project is far more ‘Long Beachy’ than a mall.

  • Yes, it is speculative on a certain level but also holds substantiation: as mentioned in the piece, two of the largest outlets (Cabazon and Primm) are located on the way to places, not within bustling downtowns (as are Tanger Barstow, Folsom, Shasta, Viejas, Lake Elsinore, Tin Cannery, Gilroy, Livermore… I can go on and on. Outlets within bustling centers, such as Citadel, are rare).

    Secondly, Long Beach citizens not “wanting or needing malls” is simply a common sentiment expressed by many I know. This is substantiated on a larger level by the failure of The Pike itself. Do we want and need more shopping? Of course. In the form of a cookie-cutter mall? I am not so sure most would be keen on that. Something more ‘alt’ like the sadly shot down PCH+2nd project is far more ‘Long Beachy’ than a mall.

  • I guess at this point anything you can do to or with the pike would be an improvement. The oulet concept may work, considering the population that tends the Pike right now. So what you have now does not work, try something new, the concept drawing looks pretty cool. I mean it work for the Block of Orange!

  • LBC Chet

    This could work, the right kinds of people are in that area regularly (tourists, conventioneers, non-resident but local visitors), and not all of us share the “let’s keep LBC poor by shunning any national retailer” attitude. As long as they can keep the riffraff from North of 7th Street out of the area, it could do very well. I’ll go for the Restoration Hardware Outlet for sure.

  • wordsmithenator

    As a life long resident and a member of the downtown community, AVR touches on the problem. This “enlightened” approach has been tried for a generation here. And it smacks of the original city answer to blight back in the 1980’s — put up big murals on the off ramps and approaches to the 710 so that it covers the blight…but never address the problem.

    And that is the real problem. Some years back Long Beach offered Bloomingdales the sun and moon to come here. They laughed at us because no one in the immediate area could afford to walk in their doors, much less buy. Yes, the problem is the surrounding quagmire of community that harbors a population that cannot afford even the Walmart, entertains itself by languishing about such places (recall all the crime at Game Stop at the Pike?) and yes, the crime element also resides in that quagmire. Just the shootings in the area alone would give any business pause for wanting to come here.

    The concept of tourists, conventioneers, event attendees and more supplying the needed economic boost to maintain business is a unfounded. People come to events to be at the events. They then go home or to their hotel. Few people channel in large stretches of time for shopping sprees, especially if they are flying in and out for an event. Bottom line: The basic maintaining support for any business must come from the local community. Until the City of Long Beach determines that the local community needs to be upgraded, like every other beachfront area from Santa Barbara to San Diego, Long Beach will remain a ghost town, surrounded by run down section 8 apartments and not million dollar condos. The money and business results in tax revenue and improvement. The other…well, just look around for those results.

  • wolfy benzo

    I am also a lifelong Long Beach resident of 90802, seen and been through the Long Beach Plaza mall and the Cityplace. I remember back then the Long Beach mall was actually more decent than the Cityplace. At least it had JcPennys, Buffums, Montgomery Wards,etc…I’ve always had to drive OUT to buy stuff, not much selection in walking distance (except Nordstrom Rack)

    I remember Crate and Barrel, Express and Z Gallerie, it was like ahead of its time, had to close, still waiting for the right income to show up.
    Now there are new high rises near the waterfront and these people have money. They moved into these properties thinking they can walk to fabulous shops etc… but still have to venture out to Los Cerritos center for Apple store, South Coast Plaza for quality shops, Belmont Shore 2nd Street for boutiques.

    From a 20 yr. hospitality front line employee point of view, I see visitors day in and day out asking for name brand stores. I have to cringe and tell them they have to drive or take a bus or taxi to these shops. Their face is frustrated, defeated, bored, disappointed.
    The visitors say our city is: beautiful looking, (landscape wise) lots of art deco buildings , tons of eateries, but no quality shops? Things that make you go hmmmm. Sometimes these visitors forget to pack their makeup, why not a Sephora or Ulta or MAC?
    Once there was a smoothie juice shop, they demolished that part of the Pike building, but we need a Jamba Juice in 90802. We can still support small businesses but sometimes you need the big brands to sustain the small businesses.

    Sometimes these visitors from Midwest or Europe want to lie out in the sun and nowhere (except Walmart) to purchase quality swimwear and bathing suits? How about a Tillys, PacSun, Old Navy? Sometimes kids forget their toys, what about a toy store that is for visitors and residents? Haven’t seen a decent toy store?

    What’s the hold out? Plain selfishness and insult for the NEW income coming into Long Beach. Even more selfishness for visitors to be able to NOT shop (yes they DO shop, some conventioneers bring their spouses and they ALWAYS told me they need to shop) and I help them ship out their goodies back home, no matter what the size, big or small, remember this is 2013, NOT 1933. News flash for old Long Beach: Now there is a new breed of success: new, entrepreneurial, independent young money is abound and they don’t blink at prices or costs for shipping. They look for shops on their phones, and go where they can spend their money.

    Something’s not right, how many times can one eat? No one really wants to go to movies but I know visitors want to bring home souvenirs and not just from the hotel gift shop. Not everyone wants to shop vintage/used clothes, no offense. Yeah some of us are broke but most of us like our new stuff too.

    In my many front line observations and conversations, not all people come to events to just go to events, some I spoke with play hooky and take a day off from meetings and want to SHOP!

    Whenever I travel and go to event, I also want to take time to stroll and shop.
    I like to take home a souvenir or something unique. Lots of negativity here. It can be done, just go over someone’s negative mindset and just bring in the shops! Small businesses should NOT be threatened, it would only ENHANCE their business. You have to have unique and familiar shops and end the desolation and run down image of 90802. Time to showcase Long Beach, not hide it? Some days I walk the streets, not a soul at Shoreline Village, not a soul on the Promenade. Not a soul at the Pike except people going to the movie theaters. Big city, no retailers? Huh?

    I do hope Restoration Hardware can bring in other quality retailers.
    Old Navy, Gap, Forever21, Victoria’s secret, Apple store, Electronics store, New York and Co, Sports store showcasing all the teams-you will not believe how many people from OUT of state that want Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Ducks memorabilia. Doesn’t matter if they lose games, visitors want to bring home something from California.

    We can’t let the riff raff take over and make us shop 5-10 miles from where we live. I would prefer to WALK to shops, not drive. Who is afraid of them? Not me!

    It’s 2013 and it’s about time to change the new mentality, show off our wonderful city by the ocean (breakwater or not, I don’t swim) and fill up the depressing empty store windows that are collecting super thick cobwebs! Just put some decent NEW fashion shops in and make downtown thrive!

  • Beertropolis L.A. fb page.

    It works well for Ontario though, and that’s not a fringe town anymore.

  • Beertropolis L.A. fb page.

    It sounds like to you nailed it, Benzo. But I was thinking that your front line experience might not tell the whole story, because I would imagine that higher end stores and other companies have does some research and found Downtown LB to be risky investment. And maybe tourism dollars aren’t enough. I don’t know for sure, since tourism dollars seem to keep Hollywood Blvd shops in business. Maybe they just get higher volume. One thing about restaurants are the fact that they can be destinations for people from nearby cities. I guess that’s why the focus in on food. If my theory is accurate, then the city needs to figure out a way to draw in more people from around town as well neighboring cities, and short drive cities like the ones in Orange County and the South Bay. This is actually one of the reasons why I really think the 22 needs to be built out to the 710..even though we’d lose Little Rec. But still… It makes Downtown more accessible to OC people, and They have $$$.
    Market the great non-chain restaurants… they come… they stay to shop if some shops would just open up. I also think more condos with ocean views needs to be constructed, to bring in more residents with money.

  • PC

    Good God. Just….good fucking God. Excuse my language, I just don’t know what else to say.

    Except….if, as I desperately hope, LB’s hideous Civic Center is scheduled for some wrecking-ball therapy, couldn’t they just…you know…kinda nonchalantly take the equipment a few blocks over and raze this disaster as well, while nobody’s looking?

  • PC

    Hey, way to make the pro-cookie-cutter-mall side of the discussion (to the extent that one exists) look more feckless and imbecilic than it already does.

  • PC

    You’d better hope that TED brainpower isn’t the only thing that can save Long Beach from decline. Ever watch any of that stuff on YouTube? With some exceptions, we’re talking about material one small intellectual notch above corporate motivational speaking.

    Oh…um, what were we actually talking about? Oh, yes: suburban-style shopping malls in urban downtown centers. See, the the thing about that is, most of the developed world has finally figured out that these are actually kind of a jawdroppingly stupid idea. It’s not surprising at all that Long Beach Plaza, City Place, and the New Desolate Pike have failed or are failing; the only noteworthy thing is that any person anywhere ever thought that the latter two would succeed. Sad? You bet, because neither of them is likely to physically go away for a long, long time. So expect to see more harebrained attempt to reinvent these places as the years grind on…

  • JSpicoli

    Hello PC! Please share with us your better plan for The Pike. Also please tell us how we would get the financial backing and-or Jack’s beans to make it happen. Thanks!

  • LBC Chet

    Yes, we should only hope everything can look like the perennially “up and coming” 4th St. district or Broadway. Run down second hand stores and crappy coffee shops, incense wafting out from every door. Long Beach is a large, diverse city that has plenty of room for local and national retail, they can actually benefit each other. Right now we have very little national retail, and the local retail universally blows (that’s retail, not restaurants).

    We can all agree The Pike was a bad idea, right up there with allowing WalMart to open downtown. But it isn’t going anywhere, and they aren’t going to fulfill your delusion of a utopian economy with locally sourced products sold by people wearing fibers that were hand spun from locally grown cotton woven on looms made from wood reclaimed from the dismantling of strip malls, powered by the tears of former CEOs made homeless by the enlightenment of our drum circles, organic urban gardens, and lively intellectualism.

    You aren’t helping.

  • Zerk

    I know I am going to catch a lot of flak for this statement… Except for the drunken sailors, and it being rather run down, the old Pike was awesome.
    The commercial retail junk that they call the New Pike is garbage. You cant squeeze in so much retail in such a small area and expect people to like it.
    I’d rather see a dirt lot in place of the Pike we have now.

  • Jspicoli

    What commercial retail? There wasn’t ever that, only restaurants and so-called “entertainment venues.” Retail was expressly prohibited from the New Pike unless it was somehow entertainment, marine or surf related. Now it’s more than half vacant (why? ironically because there was no real “commercial retail” to attract shoppers who were more than just hungry or interested in seeing a movie). The only flak you should catch is for sounding as if you haven’t ever taken a good look around there.

  • C M

    Don’t need another mall, living just 5 minutes east of the pike, I have several within a short drive where the streets are easier to navigate and the parking is abundant and free, and i don’t get hassled by bums and shady looking characters wearing oversized hoodies when it is 90 degrees.. and I doubt those that can walk to the pike could support much of anything there short of a crack house.

  • PC

    My better plan for the Pike, as I already stated in another post in this thread, begins with a wrecking ball. That is the only better plan for the Pike. It is hopeless, as is. It could be replaced with any number of things that actually make sense for the location–a grand city park, some true mixed-use development, or even a real amusement park. It could be…in theory.

    Which brings me to your next question–how we would get the financial backing to do it. I hope you weren’t expecting me to pretend that it can be done; if you were, then you didn’t read my first post very carefully. In it, I said the following:

    “Sad? You bet, because neither [City Place nor The Pike] is likely to physically go away for a long, long time.”

    The way that projects like this are amortized, they pretty much can’t be torn down for a number of decades. It’s just financially impossible unless you’ve actually got a handful of magic beans, and even then you’d probably want another handful of beans just to deal with all the entanglements, leases, corporate-welfare tax incentives, and other crap attached to the project. Not gonna happen.

    In other words, I was just venting my utterly impotent anger over an astoundingly stupid and wasteful development in a key part of a city that I like, with no pretense toward having a short-term solution to the problem. Sad? You bet.

  • Jspicoli

    So Chet is right: You’re not helping. (You’re just bitching.) Thanks. Call me a poor sport, but I like the actual solution much better.

  • Jspicoli

    Chet, I heart you.

  • Jspicoli

    I love your narrow-minded bias toward residents of downtown. Your 6th sense evidently has you saying “I see crackheads.” But that “short drive” you mention to South Coast Plaza, Cerritos, Del Amo, or South Bay? Even if it were Lakewood or in Seal Beach, it would still mean tax dollars bleeding to those other cities and away from LB. If people want to see improvements to LB, they would be wise to choose to spend here. Not to mention, likely hundreds of new jobs. That’s the bigger picture that the build-my-fantasy-boardwalk-amusement-park sentimentalists / omg-all-indie-shops-will-implode hystericals / I-just-gripe-about-any-new-idea-in-LB critics refuse to see… to the point of where they align themselves as part of the problem, instead of supporting a solution.

  • Wanderer

    Malls aren’t necessarily disappearing in urban Southern California, but they’re changing. Paseo Colorado in Pasadena isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than the horrible fortress it replaced. Similarly, Santa Monica Place, despite being absurdly upscale, opens up to the downtown streets in a really nice way. Santa Monica Place also seems to be serving both tourtists and locals. There are some other malls that were built this way to begin with–Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek up in the Bay Area, Horton Plaza (to some extent) in San Diego.

    Maybe the question is how to integrate The Pike into the authentic, locally owned and historic fabric of the rest of Downtown Long Beach.

    Outlet malls aren’t in cities because major retailers typically won’t allow them within 30 or 40 miles of their full price stores. It will be interesting to see if the national retailers will allow outlet stores in Long Beach.

  • RS

    Check out the links in the article, it looks like the answer is yes. The site map shows the list of retailers already slated for The Pike… H&M, DKNY, Restoration Hardware, Aeropostale, Coach, Fossil, Nine West, just to name a portion. There’s only about 3 spots still vacant.

  • PC

    Well, you’ve certainly got *somebody* all figured out. If that somebody were me, I suppose I’d be feeling a bit stung by all that. But as it happens, you’re just continuing to undercut your own argument–only this time, you’re merely engaging in idiotic (and not terribly original) stereotyping rather than dog-whistling like in your first post.

    I’ve posted my ideas for what ought to replace the New Desolate Pike elsewhere in the comments on this article, and I’m afraid none of them are as Portlandia-ish as you apparently would like them to be. No doubt you’ll be disappointed to see that they are in fact utterly conventional: a big park, some mixed-use development, or an (updated) amusement park.

    And of course I also hastened to point out–yesterday, before you wrote your reply–that indeed none of these things are going to replace the Pike for a very long time, if at all. You are obviously not the first person to have figured out that Long Beach is stuck with this piece of shit for the next few decades. Nobody is under any illusion that there’s an easy way to fix the problem. What the hell else can you do with a mall besides transform it into…a slightly different mall?

    This too will fail. That’s all I’m saying.

  • PC

    Call me a poor sport, but this is not the actual solution. Pretending that it is, even if you really really want to believe it, isn’t helping either. Sorry if that isn’t what you wanted to hear. I don’t know what to say to make you feel better. The situation just sucks, and that’s all there is to it for the medium-term future.

  • PC

    “Maybe the question is how to integrate The Pike into the authentic,
    locally owned and historic fabric of the rest of Downtown Long Beach.”

    Difficult to do with this sort of cheap mall “architecture” under the best of circumstances, but here you have an additional challenge: it’s hard to integrate something *into* the fabric of a downtown when it’s actually just sort of *near*, and physically isolated from, the downtown. It’s hard to smooth over the fact that these are two very different landscapes. This in itself isn’t bad; there’s usually a fairly abrupt transition between the downtown of any seaside city and whatever natural or built features actually abut the water. It’s just that, well, in this case what abuts the water is a thoroughly charmless generic retail/entertainment center that isn’t attracting anybody on its own, and it’s cut off from the downtown by the topography of the area and by the street layout.

    It also doesn’t help that much of Ocean Boulevard, the natural “seam” between these two areas, is given over to high-rise residential buildings (some really nice ones, to be sure) without much in the way of ground floor attractions for the general public, and a Civic Center from the dark ages of urban renewal. So not much reason for somebody in either the downtown or the mall to begin strolling toward the other unless they were already going there.

    By no means am I claiming to be the first person to have noticed these problems…no doubt they are exactly why everyone is now going to try desperately to get conventioneers and race fans to patronize this place. Just thought I’d…you know, bring ’em up.

    Once again, I’m sorry if this isn’t what anybody wanted to hear. If it makes you feel any better, San Pedro has the same sort of problem trying to integrate its downtown with what lies closer to the water–only, blessedly, nobody has replaced the failing decades-old tourist attraction there with an outrageously expensive and useless megamall…yet.

  • RS

    Gee, with your kind of enthusiasm & support? It sounds like you’re the kind of “helpful” LBer who dreams of dancing on its grave.

  • RS

    The very least you could give people, PC, is some respect for their opinions. Your implications that those who disagree with you are disingenous (“pretending”) or in need of consolation (“make you feel better”) are really patronizing and condescending. Of course, such sentiments could only come from someone who believes that he could not ever possibly be anything but right. I’ll hope for success with this and will support it, because I believe this is a solution that could benefit us all. And unlike the amusement park you reference, this is actually feasible and can occur within our means. You don’t have to like it, so don’t show up. Good night.

  • LBCityGirl

    It’s not “Vault 360”, it is “Vault 350” …no wait it’s actually the old Club v2o. Vault 350 is located at 4th and Pine. Club v2o was located at the Pike. The Vault is planning on reopening. Restoration Hardware is installing in the old Club v2o space. I wish you’d get your info on LB correct.

  • Eagle Eye

    SO well said

  • Eagle Eye

    I don’t know about regular retailers, but I know for a fact that Trader Joe’s won’t come to downtown because they do research on the local demographics before opening up any location, and while we have high and middle income earners in certain parts of the downtown, we also have an over-abundance of low-income/Section 8/welfare residents. I would imagine that any business is looking at these same demographics, and
    taking them into consideration.

  • Eagle Eye

    In other words, let’s get rid of the crackerboxes, and while it might be politically incorrect to say it – bring on the gentrification!!!!

    Totally agree.

  • Eagle Eye

    Best post/response I’ve read from a Long Beach resident. Gives me some hope!

  • EZ

    Nice Reply Jspicoli

  • EZ

    I am a dowtown Long Beach local home owner and I’ve noticed a lot of changes in our area (3rd street between chestnut and magnolia) I also noticed rent going up in our area.

  • af

    They should start the wrecking ball over at the breakwater. Let’s put the “Beach” back into Long Beach. No one goes to the beach in Long Beach.

    Depressing and stale.

  • TheLB79

    The Pike is a glorified food court and if you dislike eating at chain restaurants like I do, then there is no reason to go down there unless something like the Red Bull Flutag is going on. I’d rather go to Second Street and have a ton of Restaurant, Bar and Desert options.

  • Marcia

    I would love to see a follow up story on what is (or isn’t) going on at The Pike. There has been no movement on the alleged Outlet project, beyond the opening of Restoration Hardware. Hard to believe no one can figure out how to turn this into a shopping center.

  • Lamar Anthony

    Wow that very good improvement like look same santa Monica shopping center plus near light line train. I love it here long beach new pike shopping center. I believe in vision that very popular best places.

  • Anonymous

    The new Pike Outlets appears to be doing well. Nike, Converse, H&M , The Gap have all opened up and just recently a Starbucks!!!

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