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Former Acres of Books site, set to become food hal...

Former Acres of Books site, set to become food hall, begins to take shape

This is a part of Flavors of Long Beach, a month-long celebration of local food from Brian Addison, James Tir (aka @LBFoodComa) and Long Beach Living, with stories, events, dinners and more.

It was originally a central market, akin to the famed Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles, where passersby would enter a space on what was once American Avenue (and is now Long Beach Boulevard) to get everything from grains at Ye Olde Grist Mill to good ol’ donuts from Cake-O doughnuts.

 

The Acres of Books facade—the sole part of the structure saved from demolition—will serve as the entrance to the food hall at the Broadway Block. Photo by Brian Addison.

But for most Long Beachers alive, the space at 240 Long Beach Blvd. had always been—well, at least up until 2008, when its owners had sold the building and its surrounding lot to the now-dissolved Redevelopment Agency of the state—home to Acres of Books, Bertrand Russell’s famed book store.

The question is not whether bibliophiles will see the return of smelly old stacks of bound paper return—that is not going to happen—but whether DTLB could sustain a Grand Central Market-like space in a downtown that is only beginning to barely see a return to life.

Post 2008, when then Councilmember Suja Lowenthal proudly took a sledgehammer to part of its side walling in a declaration that it would become a future development, the lot sat empty for well over a decade, including the famed building, which was deemed a culture landmark.And while bibliophiles—including myself—will seemingly forever lament the loss of the bookstore, admitting that perhaps we had wished much too well that its lack of development would somehow contribute to its future survival, the question of whether DTLB could sustain a Grand Central Market-like space is the most important aspect of this particular part of the development.

The north-facing wall of what used to be Acres of Books, as seen on June 22, 2016. Photo by Brian Addison.

The now-underway $215 million Broadway Block, announced years before the pandemic, will take over the entirety of the west stretch of Long Beach Blvd. between Broadway and 3rd Street, the most obvious part of the development being the near-completion of what will be a 23-story, 252-foot high mixed-use residential tower.

And while its developer, Onni, has promised bringing both residents and businesses alike to the space, the post-pandemic outlook of DTLB is that it has many steps to take in order to get back to a semblance of a functioning downtown.

 

Broadway Block’s main tower, a mint green and white structure, as seen during construction on Dec. 21, 2021. Photo by Brian Addison.

Most restaurants remain closed for lunch and are not open seven-days-a-week. Empty retail fronts—including one of the most glaring: The massive former Starbucks space that was the anchor of the $70M Current development has long sat empty since the middle of the pandemic—contribute to questions of how and when DTLB will return to being a vibrant downtown core.

The former Acre of Books site—whose facade was deemed a historic landmark and therefore could not be destroyed—will have its shell re-built to make way for a 9,300-square-foot food hall.

And while it remains a good idea in the now—food is one of the easiest ways to attract folks to nearly any part of a city—we are looking at months before completion and months before lease signings.

That being said, as of now, details remain slim but it will serve as part of the public paseo being designed that will allow passersby to walk through the property and around the buildings.

Onni has yet to respond to this story.

The new concept taking over the former Acres of Book site has no definitive opening date; it is located at 240 Long Beach Blvd.

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