Where Downtown is your City’s Living Room

City of Bellflower, CA

Bellflower, California combines a business-friendly atmosphere with a family-friendly one. Centrally located in southeast Los Angeles County, the 6.1-square-mile city with a population of 78,106 – as of 2015 – is close to the ports and airports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, with easy access to three freeways. A future light rail transit system will travel through Downtown Bellflower, connecting southeast Los Angeles County to Downtown Los Angeles.
~
“Bellflower is a hidden gem in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area,” says Jim DellaLonga, the city’s Director of Economic Development. He talks enthusiastically about the climate where the average temperature is 74° F (23.3°C), where recreational opportunities abound year-round in city parks and on nearby beaches and mountains and where real estate prices are family-friendly. “We want to let people know we’re here, and that in addition to all those benefits, we have a business-friendly climate,” he says.

“We offer site location assistance, so if you’re looking for a specific type of site or area or building, we can do that legwork for you. We’ll walk you through the entitlement process and all the city permitting things you have to go through and make it as easy and inviting as possible. And we provide businesses with a variety of help through SCORE, the Service Core of Retired Executives, funded by the Federal Trade Commission. It is a program that provides free business mentoring for small businesses interested in expanding or creating new ones.

“People can make an appointment to come in and talk about their business or marketing plans or issues they’re having with financing or payroll, and get some real world executive advice from retired experts who are volunteering their time,” explains DellaLonga.

“SCORE also provides free monthly workshops in various fields like how to manage websites or social media or business financing, so entrepreneurs and business operators can learn new skills on how to improve their business. As a progressive economic development department, we have also extended our staff to assist business owners in improving their social media presence and marketing strategies, catering to small business owners and operators who aren’t able to attend workshops.” These efforts are improving Bellflower’s business-friendly atmosphere and reputation year after year.

People have been drawn to the area since the first Spanish land grant in 1784. In the early twentieth century, Belle Fleur apples grew abundantly in the orchards giving the city its name. The orchards and the dairy farms operated by Dutch farmers made this the apple and milk production hub of Southern California. The housing boom of the post-World War II era caused many farmers to move several miles east as new homes were built for Los Angeles area workers in technology, skilled industrial and service industries.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Bellflower Boulevard, the city’s main mile-and-a-half thoroughfare, became a thriving commercial strip for shopping, with retail, franchised restaurants, mid- and high-end boutiques, department stores and arts and crafts shops lining it.

“There were also a lot of furniture stores on the strip before the days of shopping malls,” DellaLonga says, “and it was where everyone in Los Angeles County would come to buy a new dinette or bedroom set. And it was one of the cruising areas for people with hot rods and cool cars.”

Over several decades, downtowns like Bellflower’s have lost their “coolness” and were no longer attracting people as they historically did. Bellflower’s Economic Development Department is focusing on bringing in and retaining businesses throughout the city and is working hard to reenergize the downtown corridor.

So, what is happening today in downtown Bellflower that you would want to experience if you relocated your own business there? Early in 2018, the Mayne Events Center and Fire Museum opened. “They’re both in the same building, with the museum on the lower floor,” DellaLonga explained. “The L.A. County Fire Museum Association will showcase historical fire apparatuses from Los Angeles; they’ll display the horse-drawn water wagons all the way to the steam engines as well as the apparatus used on the seventies TV show Emergency and the movie Backdraft.

“Above that will be a 12,000-square-foot meeting space available for weddings and birthdays, bar mitzvahs and quinceañeras.” Directly across from the Mayne Events Center will be a parking structure for three hundred cars, “to encourage pedestrian usage and invite people to stroll down the boulevard and visit the shops,” DellaLonga says.

“Bellflower is welcoming an innovative commercial project named SteelCraft, which is an outdoor urban eatery constructed out of 15 repurposed shipping containers. SteelCraft developers sought to expand their current Long Beach concept and saw Bellflower as a perfect location for SteelCraft’s next venture. We anticipate a grand opening in the summer of 2018 and expect this development to be a very popular gathering place in our downtown.”

And then there are the restaurants. “It’s turning into a foodie area, where you can sample a lot of different kinds of food. We have traditional southern barbecue, Korean tabletop BBQ, Sushi and Italian; we have a family-owned bakery putting out goodies and custom cakes and specialty coffee; and as part of the SteelCraft project, we will feature craft beer and a unique wine bar. We’re recreating the ‘cool’ downtown – a place that offers a wide variety of restaurants, outdoor movies in the Town Center Plaza, and we’re now touting ourselves as a potential home for micro-breweries, pubs and retail businesses.”

Another advantage to relocating to Bellflower is reasonably priced housing compared to surrounding areas. For example, a two or three bedroom, 1,600- to 2,000-square-foot brand new townhouse ranges between $450,000 and $500,000, which is considerably less than prices in Los Angeles.

“It’s become quite a struggle for people who want to live in metro downtowns and enjoy the amenities of downtown living,” says DellaLonga, “with people paying high prices to live in a very small space. But here, we have a combo; we have our quaint downtown, no expensive high-rises, but we do have condos and townhouses. Just outside of downtown, you will find suburban neighborhoods with detached family homes with yards back and front. Bellflower has a nice mix of housing types, and it’s one of the most affordable areas of Los Angeles County.”

The city also boasts a bike and walking trail that runs the length of the city, starting in one of the parks and, with a grant from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, will be linked to trails in an adjacent city. In 2016, John S. Simms Park opened – the largest outdoor fitness center in the U.S. All the exercise machines needed to do push-ups and pull-downs are free to use and are specially-made to withstand an outdoor environment.

Looking to the future, DellaLonga says that light rail will offer public transportation from Bellflower all the way to Los Angeles and with a station in the downtown, it will be a great asset to the city’s overall economic development efforts. “We’re hoping it will come to fruition in the next five to eight years and be fast-tracked long before the 2028 Olympics.

“California is a leader in the area for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so the light rail will go a long way to encourage people out of their cars and into alternative transportation, especially when commuting to Downtown L.A. Traffic here is a huge issue and light rail can only help alleviate that.”

July 22, 2018, 3:10 AM EDT

The Gig Economy

There are countless studies that demonstrate that the nature of work is changing. Work is becoming increasingly precarious, but what does this mean? Does precarious employment imply doom and gloom or is there a silver lining for work that no longer fits traditional or conventional models? Is it a necessary evolution for the increasingly automated economy?