Project Waldbaum’s Shopping Center. Hell’s Strip Stores. Shopping Plaza Makeover. Desperate Landlord. Queer Eye for the Straight Shopping Center. Vacancy Nightmares.

Something needs to be done with the Waldbaum’s Shopping Center, and its landlord, the City of Long Beach, is even admitting it. Taken from the recently released City of LB Proposed Annual Budget for Fiscal Year July 1st, 2012 – June 30th, 2013 was this little bit:

The City has several assets that are currently underutilized. Consider all options regarding the Waldbaum’s Shopping Center property, which is currently leased for $82,400 per year.

Only $82,400 per year? Hmm… that seems kinda low, but there is so much involved with a lease, so it’s hard to tell with just that one number. Who pays the expenses (insurance, school/gen/lb taxes, CAM)? Do they have triple net leases? Base years? etc.. Commercial leases can get very complicated. And does $82,400 per year include Waldbaum’s rent or just the strip stores? Suffice it to say, that center could do much better for the city. Waldbaums itself isn’t going anywhere since it has a ninety-nine year lease (or so I’ve been told), but those strip stores need to be re-imagined. They’re underutilized; they don’t fit the character of our downtown and they don’t promote new and progressive ideas which are basically rebuilding communities all across america: Smart Growth, Complete Streetswalkability, etc.

I have no idea what the city has in mind for that space, but here are a bunch that have been kicking around this blog (and in my head) for a while:

A Performing Arts Center

Back in December I suggested the idea of converting the vacant Temple Beth El (570 W. Walnut St., Long Beach, NY 11561) into a performing arts center. Yes, I do realize the temple’s current location is not ideal for a music venue (nearby residents would have a hissy fit). So Mary Ellen of the West End Beautification Association took this idea one step further by suggesting, “What if we can find somebody to buy the temple and move it to a better location?” Her idea is totally insane, outside the box and I totally love it:

  • We would be preserving a historical building.
  • Open up 570 W. Walnut Street for proper residential development.
  • Get our performing arts center.

I think the Waldbaum’s shopping center would be an ideal location since it’s in the center of city amenities (LIRR, restaurants, parking, stores, main road access from the rest of Long Island). According to my poll from last December, the people of Long Beach want a Performing Arts Center. Let’s do it! All what we need now are deep pockets filled with lots of money.

Smart Growth / Dense & Diverse Housing (How about Artspace?)

With all that wasted Waldbaum’s shopping center space, Long Beach has a unique opportunity to increase its tax base, offer diverse housing and cozy up the downtown in one swift move: by developing the strip center under the principal of Smart Growth.

Smart growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl. It also advocates compact, transit-orientedwalkablebicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools,complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices.

Smart growth values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health. 

(Source – Smart Growth Wikipedia)

That location is walkable to the LIRR, buses, taxis, restaurants, shops and beach; that all sounds like a prime Smart Growth location to me! Because of all this, the impact dense housing would have in that area would be minimal.

I think we should think outside the box on this one. Instead of doing the Long Island norm (condos, multi-family house developments, giant two-family ranches or fake stucco one family houses that droop as they age), why not bring some spark to the area with Artspace? Last I heard, Long Island has a hard time keeping the kids from moving out (lack of culture, lack of diverse housing, too expensive, wants to live in a cool place). Artspace can help with that. From their website:

Artspace’s mission is to create, foster, and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations. We pursue this mission through development projects, asset management activities, consulting services, and community-building activities that serve artists and arts organizations of all disciplines, cultures, and economic circumstances. By creating this space, Artspace supports the continued professional growth of artists and enhances the cultural and economic vitality of the surrounding community.

What a way to bring culture, more diverse housing options and an increased tax base to our city. Artspace in Long Beach would be a one of a kind for Nassau County; possibly opening up opportunities for other great stuff. Plus, the building itself would be a conversation piece. The Waldbaum’s center has plenty of parking for residents who would live there. You have a grocery store right next door. Traffic won’t be much more than what the current strip stores provide already, but who needs to drive around when you have the LIRR, buses, taxies, decobike kiosks, beach, restaurants and stores all at your doorstep?

If you want to see an example of Artspace, drive 45 miles east to Patchogue where you will find a brand new Art Space building:

Screen shot 2009-12-30 at 2.14.57 PMArtspace’s project in the Village of Patchogue, a Long Island community about 50 miles east of New York City, will be a new five-story building with 45 affordable live/work spaces on the upper floors and retail space at street level. Located in downtown Patchogue, the $16 million project represents both economic revitalization and the opportunity to strengthen a growing arts community; many Main Street storefronts are now occupied by artists and creative businesses. 

Bring The Stores Up To The Street

If changes are ever to be made, this seems to be a likable option. Bringing the strip of stores to the street will cozy up our downtown and also give the tenants better exposure. There would also be room for parking in the rear. I’m sure RE brokers try to use the current layout as a bonus: The only strip center with parking in Long Beach, but folks here aren’t biting. That’s why that center is in trouble in the first place.

In either case, I agree with the City of Long Beach: The City has several assets that are currently underutilized. Consider all options regarding the Waldbaum’s Shopping Center property. 

Fish / Farmers / Arts & Crafts Market

This is a little pipe dream of mine. Any of you ever go to the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia? Or how about Pike Place Market in Seattle? Mimic those great places of commerce right here in Long Beach with our very own market! We can get the Farmer’s Market to operate inside, art’s in the plaza vendors selling their crafts, plus we can maybe attract even more local commerce.. say.. fresh fish? To take this idea one step further, how about we redevelop the bay side with a marina and have boats bring in fresh fish to be sold daily at our Long Beach Market? Oh… I can dream.

Those were just a few ideas. Anybody got others?