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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.

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