BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
For more than a year now, the mortgage meltdown, and the high cost of fuel and food have been hitting the retail industry like a gang of highway robbers. As the nation’s economic woes continue to erode the disposable income of many Americans, restaurateurs and store owners look hopefully to anything that might bring more customers their way.
Several Bixby Knolls businesses closed their doors during the last 12 months and several more are still struggling to survive, but recently several events took place that could result in more people spending money in the area.
“Just in the last week or so, three very good things happened here,” said Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA). “The Atlantic Avenue north offramp was reopened, the new traffic signals at Marshall and Cartagena Avenues were turned on, and our historic light poles were painted.”
Cohn explained that the offramp reopening would bring more customers to Bixby Knolls businesses. (See related article.) He added that the two new traffic lights on Atlantic Avenue at Marshall and Cartagena would slow traffic down, making Atlantic Avenue safer and more pedestrian friendly.
“We want to have more people strolling on our sidewalks,” he said. “We want everyone to discover what Bixby Knolls has to offer.”
He added that the painting of the light poles also makes the area more pleasant for walking.
“The light poles just accentuate what’s already here and make the avenue more attractive to walkers,” he said. “Special thanks to the City of Long Beach Public Works Department, City Manager’s Office, Redevelopment Agency and City Light and Power for painting our historic light poles.”
The BKBIA publishes an online newsletter that updates members on what is going on in Bixby Knolls. In the most recent issue, Cohn welcomed Long Beach Arts (LBA) to its new location at 4332 Atlantic Avenue (next to the new location of Alsace Lorraine Bakery).
“Long Beach Arts was founded in 1924 for the purpose of advocating arts in everyday life,” Cohn said. “It is a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing the work of current artists to public view.”
He noted that it began as a constituency of artists associated with the Wayside Art Colony in 1923, and it is one of the oldest art organizations in California. Cohn said the LBA’s new location will attract artists and art lovers from near and far, adding to the synergy of Bixby Knolls and increasing the enthusiasm of shop owners and shoppers alike.
In the newsletter, Cohn also noted that soon enhanced landscaping will grace a portion of the Bixby Knolls business district.
“Plans are now underway to develop the empty parkway on Carson Street just west of Atlantic,” he said. “New trees and plants will help to complete the development of three corners at Carson.”
He added that the northeast corner of that intersection is next in line for a facelift. That corner currently contains a liquor store and flower shop. Many business owners and residents have asked for façade and streetscape improvements at that location.
Cohn noted that other portions of the Bixby Knolls landscape and streetscape are also showing signs of improvement.
“Long Beach Boulevard received some attention from Public Works last week with a tree trimming and sidewalk repair,” he noted. “In early fall, eight new trees will be planted on the parkway between Carson and Roosevelt avenues. Additional streetscape improvements continue to upgrade the business corridor.”
While streetscape and landscape improvements are vital to the prosperity of Bixby Knolls businesses, Cohn also places great importance on activities that draw people to the area. Two activities he has initiated since taking the BKBIA helm are the Bixby Knolls Literary Society and the Bixby Knolls Strollers.
“The Literary Society is another opportunity for business owners and residents alike to come together to create our active vibrant community,” Cohn said. “The books are all five-star selections. Every few months, authors will be at the meetings to discuss their books.”
The Strollers have been meeting every Saturday morning for several months to go on walking tours of the area. So far they have walked to Rancho Los Cerritos, the Cliff May Homes, the Wardlow Station of the Blue Line, Dominguez Gap Wetlands and many other interesting places and neighborhoods. Walking routes are usually 3.5 miles long and change each week. Dogs are welcome.
For more information on events and activities in the Bixby Knolls area, phone (562) 595-0081 or visit www.bixbyknollsinfo.com.
BY NICK DIAMANTIDES