Planning Commission Approves Compliance Of Pine Square Theater Conversion Conditions

by Sean Belk, Staff Writer

A project to convert the AMC Pine Square 16 movie theater in Downtown Long Beach, which closed last year, into 69 loft-style apartments has taken a step forward after receiving approval of compliance with conditions set forth by the Long Beach Planning Commission.

During its June 2 meeting, the commission unanimously approved compliance  (6-0), while Commissioner Becky Blair recused herself due to conflict of interest, according to city staff.  The planning commission had approved the project’s site plan review and certified negative declaration in April, but had asked the applicant to return with revised plans to comply with a list of concerns.

Conditions of approval include reconfiguring parking garage entrance traffic patterns, a request to close the Broadway garage entrance/exit, enlarging window and doors on the units, requiring more usable open space and providing sufficient bike racks. However, the conditions have now been resolved to the commission’s and city staff’s satisfaction.

Downey-based property owner the Meruelo Group plans to convert the vacant 16-screen theater space, totaling 112,079 square feet, into a modernized apartment complex, consisting of 52 studios, eight one-bedroom units and nine two-bedroom, two-level townhomes. With the 538 square foot box offices marketed as new retail space, the total leasable, on-site ground-floor commercial space is 37,240 square feet, according to city staff.

The Pine Square retail center has struggled with issues of marketability and has seen a drop in sales and foot traffic over the last few years. After the closure of the near 20-year-old theater last year, due to competing theaters in Long Beach and the economic slowdown, most nearby residents and businesses see the new development as a welcome revival of the area.

Plans for the new retail courtyard include eliminating the escalators, pedestrian bridge, palm trees and archways to create a newly landscaped area with a proposed projection screen that would be seen from Pine Avenue. The facades and exteriors of businesses on the first and second floors are expected to be refurbished, in addition to repainting the conjoined seven-story Pacific Court Apartment complex to match the overall project.

The 70-foot-deep apartments, although were initially a concern of the planning commission due to the proposed elongated shape and lack of natural lighting and air circulation, are a common style of lofts seen in Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas and are very marketable, according to developers and real estate agents.

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