Proposal for The Uptown retail plaza to reach City planning commission in June

Sebastian Echeverry: Staff Writer

Courtesy Westland Real Estate Group
The above rendering shows the proposed project site for The Uptown, located on Atlantic Avenue in north Long Beach. An Uptown Business Improvement District newsletter earlier this month stated that The Uptown officials are hoping to lease out spaces for a brewery, ice-cream shop, coffee shop and possibly a grocery store. Yanki Greenspan, Westland president, said that a proposal for the project is expected to reach the City’s planning commission in June.

As condominium and high-rise projects continue to sprout throughout downtown, north Long Beach isn’t falling far behind, as it too has construction developments underway.

One project is located within walking distance from Houghton Park in uptown. The current retail center located there, Harding Plaza, will soon be connected to a new retail development expansion-project called The Uptown located on Atlantic Avenue.

Westland Real Estate Group owns the land where Harding Plaza is located, and the company is spearheading the development of The Uptown with help from Studio 111 design firm.

Yanki Greenspan, Westland president, said during a phone interview with the Signal Tribune Monday that a proposal for The Uptown is expected to reach the City’s planning commission in June.

The process to submit a full proposal to the planning commission encountered some challenges, according to Greenspan.

During Monday’s interview, he said that his team was waiting on a third-party traffic report before proceeding toward a proposal.

“We’ve had some hiccups with planning and public works departments, in terms of just getting all on the same page, in terms of what everyone was looking for,” Greenspan said. “We seem to have agreed on nearly all of the issues at this point.”

The retail center is expected to be a place where local residents can shop and socialize.

“We hosted a few community meetings in north Long Beach, and we’ve been tracking this property for a long time, more than a decade now,” Greenspan said. “[Residents] have consistently come back with the same response every meeting. They are looking for a grocery store, they are looking for coffee and they are looking for a place where [!] people can go have a cup of coffee outside in a nice environment.”

Greenspan and his team have entered negotiations with mostly small-scale businesses. He believes that The Uptown retail center will attract larger, national corporations to do business in north Long Beach.

“I think as [!] the big-name retailers drive through north Long Beach and see what they see, it’s not attractive to them,” Greenspan said. “It’s not a place where they are seeing activity, they are not seeing activation, in terms of community engagement. After we build this and get the community to come out and support the retailers that we have on site, that will drive other businesses to want to be in the same neighborhood.”

So far, Burgerim, a custom gourmet-burger franchise, has signed a tenant lease, and there are still negotiations happening with other eateries, according to a May 4 newsletter from the Uptown Business Improvement District. Harding Plaza is expected to add a brewery, an ice-cream shop, a coffee shop and possibly a grocery store, the newsletter reads.

Tasha Hunter, Uptown Business Improvement District executive director, helped refer possible tenants over to Westland Real Estate Group throughout the leasing process.

“We are very supportive of Westland,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “When they put a call out for tenants, I was able to engage with some of my businesses that are already in the district. So, I’ve been able to refer them to Westland.”

Hunter said the community’s request for a grocery store helped her connect with the Long Beach Grocery Cooperative— a jointly owned grocery. She said they were in negotiations for a lease.

Hunter also mentioned that The Long Beach Beer Lab brewery was planning to lease at The Uptown, although that information has not been confirmed. She said the retail center was designed based off of comparisons to other social eateries found in downtown and Bixby Knolls.

Hunter said that the Uptown Business Improvement District also provides businesses with private security and clean-up crews that collect dumped items on business properties.

“North Long Beach has been neglected for a long time, and so many other parts of the city have seen development and infusion of capital,” Greenspan states in the newsletter. “North Long Beach has strong neighborhoods, and we believe that it can sustain this kind of development. Ultimately, we are hoping to lead the way for other developers to realize that there is real potential in north Long Beach.”

The Signal Tribune reached out to Long Beach Vice Mayor and 9th District Councilmember Rex Richardson’s office for an interview, however, he was not available to comment within press time.