Long Beach Police Station March 2019

The old Long Beach Police Station, pictured in March 2019, is being transformed into a visitor and merchant-support center.

LONG BEACH — Before the new station for the Long Beach Police Department was even christened, the soon-to-be old station has already found a new tenant.

At a May 20 special meeting, the Long Beach City Council unanimously voted to approve a contract between the city and the Long Beach Merchants Association. The contract will see the city contribute $20,000 annually toward LBMA operating the building as a visitors and merchants services center for the next three years.

The city will also contribute an additional $20,000 this year that had been budgeted for festival expenditures but gone unused. Some of those funds are expected to go toward renovations and additions to the building, including new signage and removing a false wall.

In a business plan from LBMA provided to the city, the association said it plans to commit up to $15,000 annually to the venture, covering things like employee costs, insurance, copier lease, internet and phone service and office supplies.

Seeing if it will work

Long Beach Mayor Jerry Phillips supported limiting the initial contract to three years, saying it is important for the city not to be tied down for too long.

“I think [the contract] is cleaner, slicker and gives us a three-year window to see if it’s going to work or not work,” Phillips said.

As part of the agreement, the city’s plan is to pull all funding for the venture at the end of the third year, “with the expectation that the visitors center is self-sustaining,” according to the contract. “If [LBMA] is not self-sustaining, [the city of Long Beach] has the authority to terminate the use agreement and ask [LBMA] to leave the property.”

The deal was backed by several organizations, including the Pacific County Economic Development Council, the Pacific County Tourism Bureau and the Ilwaco Merchants Association. The EDC is also contributing some money to help the merchants services center get started.

Long Beach City Administrator David Glasson said the city turned over the building to LBMA on June 1, the same day of the opening of the new Long Beach Police Department at 104 3rd St. NW. The city is leasing the building to LBMA for $1 per year.

Visitors resources centerThe new and more expansive Long Beach police station at 104 3rd St. NW opened up a vacancy at the old building in the heart of downtown. Next door to the Funland Family Fun Center and across the street from Castaway’s Seafood Grille, the building is witness to a stream of thousands of tourists flooding the downtown area throughout the year, especially during the summer.

LBMA’s focus on attracting in-market visitors — those living within 100 miles of the peninsula — would allow for the Pacific County Tourism Bureau to devote more of its limited resources toward attracting out-of-market visitors, its executive director Andi Day said in a letter of support. She said the organization would continue to operate its visitors center in Seaview.

LBMA envisions the building serving as a location for tourists — the organization’s business plan estimates it could serve 40,000 to 50,000 annual visitors — to stay up to date with local attractions, businesses, restaurants, bars, lodgings and events.

Once open for operations, the center is expected to be staffed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Money contributed by both the city and LBMA will go toward the salary for an employee to oversee visitors center operations.

“It cannot be completely run by volunteers or by business owners. That is not even logical to ask the business owners to be doing. We have to hire someone in order to do this project,” LBMA president Karla Jensen told the city council at a workshop meeting.

When it’s not open, large-screen monitors in the windows will display information about upcoming events, as well as general information including tides and directions to popular destinations.

Planned features for the visitors center include a kiosk station for finding information about local happenings, festival merchandise that is available for sale year-round, and ticket sales for a proposed Long Beach History Tour aboard a trolley. The tour would be in conjunction with the Pacific Transit System and Columbia-Pacific Heritage Museum, featuring a narrated tour at to-be-decided historical stops along the peninsula.

Ticket sales from the tour would be a way for LBMA to generate revenue, with the need for the venture to become self-sustaining without further financial assistance from the city by the end of the three-year agreement.

Merchants services centerThe building will also serve as a resource center for local businesses, allowing them to access technical services and programs.

“One of the larger fears is that the merchants don’t have the support needed in order to be able to always run their businesses effectively. So I worked on also having it be a merchant service center as well, because there was plenty of space to be able to do both,” Jensen said.

According to the LBMA business plan, services available to merchants will include:

• Computers with well-known programs, such as the Microsoft suite of applications, Adobe Acrobat, Canva, etc.

• Copying and scanning, as well as collating, laminating and binding.

• A commercial-grade color printer, ideal for making posters and flyers.

• Assistance with grant and loan applications, and other financial services.

The center will also be host to technical support for businesses, business mentoring and support workshops, meetings and networking opportunities, and “a central hub for planning and execution of festivals and events.” Along with charging for services like copying, printing and access to the internet and software programs, training programs from business executive mentors could also be a source of revenue for the venture.

LBMA is reaching out to businesses for feedback on whether to have a pay-as-you-go or membership business model for accessing the center, as well as how often they would expect to use the center’s services and what they would like to see offered. The expectation is for the services center to be open seven days a week, with daily hours to be determined.

LBMA has also offered the Ilwaco Merchants Association and Pacific County Tourism Bureau the opportunity to have a desk in the center as well at a cost of $400 per month, which in turn would also give their respective members access to the merchant services.

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