Signal Tribune: SteelCraft Grand Opening Feature
A ‘game changer’ for Superbowl weekend?
Much anticipated Steelcraft food lot to have grand opening in February
Those closely anticipating the Superbowl the first weekend of February will have another thing to look forward to– the grand opening of Bixby Knolls’ first shipping container-themed food lot.
While the Steelcraft lot that consists of repurposed shipping containers where local vendors and eateries will be able to operate will have its grand opening that Superbowl weekend, tenants such as Steelhead Coffee and Smog City Brewing are already operational.
Last month, Smog City Brewing and Steelhead Coffee both hosted soft openings a week apart from one another at the lot, according to Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA). Desano Pizza Bakery opened its doors this week, he added, and other vendors will follow soon after, week-by-week until the grand opening in February.
“We really consider it a game changer, especially for Long Beach Boulevard,” said Cohn of the Steelcraft lot in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s a great conduit for the neighborhood to come to and gather. And I think it’s going to help put Bixby Knolls on the map and the radar of not just Long Beach, but the whole region.”
Vendors include Steelhead Coffee, Smog City Brewing, Desano Pizza Bakery, Waffle Love, Tajima Ramen, Lovesome Chocolates and Fresh Shave, according to Martin Howard, executive of the Howard CDM general contractor firm and landowner of the lot. Working Class Kitchen, Pitfire Artisan Pizza and a produce stand are no longer included.
He said there is one vacant container that is planned to be burger-oriented, but he chose to not reveal the full details.
Howard said it took a lot of figuring out to get things in place. The plans for the lot were eventually formulated, approved by the City and put to work this past July.
“It’s a culmination of a lot of creative energy and a lot of work and a lot of problem-solving and cooperation and teamwork and all those things,” Howard said in a phone interview Wednesday. “To sum it all up, it’s pretty exciting.”
The Steelcraft lot is the result of close to two years of planning, he said. Before the project started, the space was planned to be a conventional 5000-square-foot building, but when the economy failed around 2008, the project was stalled.
It was in late 2014 when Kim Gros, a developer with Steelcraft who currently spearheads the project, came up with the idea for the lot, which had originally been intended for the downtown Long Beach area until she got in contact with Howard CDM. She drew inspiration from other cities that had similar projects, such as Las Vegas and San Francisco, and was enthused with the idea of repurposing steel containers and bringing a new life to them.
Gros said in a phone interview on Wednesday that she was at the lot Sunday evening, when only Smog City Brewing was open at that hour, and every table was still taken. She saw people socializing with one another, others brought games such as Checkers, kids were playing on the grass– “It was that moment,” she said, “if I could have taken a picture at that moment, that’s the reason why so much effort has been put in. It’s for the opportunity for people to meet somewhere and to have those conversations in a place that’s inviting to the eye where you’re able to get a really great beverage and a well crafted meal.”
She joked that there are times when the whole project just feels “completely surreal,” so much so that she feels compelled to drive by the lot at odd hours of the day to just see it for herself.
Gros also commended her Steelcraft team, including Howard, for the forward-thinking approach on the project.
There have also been pending plans for a production crew to document the Steelcraft project. Gros said the premise of the video is unclear and the project is currently in the works. She chose not to reveal the name of the production company in case it doesn’t work out.
The Steelcraft area has 10 reserved parking areas for those who work in the surrounding area, but Howard said there is parking available across the street by a five-story building that he owns, including two other buildings south of that structure that also has a large parking area. In total, he said there are roughly 225 stalls that employees and patrons can use.
Howard, who is an avid cyclist, said there are six streetside bike racks available for public use, as well.
Howard said he has been helping to develop projects along Long Beach Boulevard for the last decade, adding how strong partnerships and extensive planning with community officials and business groups have allowed steady growth for the neighborhood.
He works in a building right next to the lot in an upstairs office, where he has a bird’s-eye view of the area and sees people going in and out of the Steelcraft lot on a daily basis– “I’m here every day. I live it.”
He said the engagement Steelcraft has already provided for the neighborhood is confirmation of the lot’s success.
“The kind of revitalization I’ve seen in 12 years is phenomenal,” he said. “This is just another chess piece, as I like to call it, on the board, bringing Steelcraft […] and these offerings of food, beer and craft to these families who really appreciate that and really support that.” ✦
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