By Arnold Adler
BELLFLOWER — Light manufacturing and production of art works may be in operation besides restaurants and retail establishments in the city’s downtown area in the coming months.
During a special morning meeting April 14, the City Council approved the recommendations of a consultant to allow “small scale and artisanal manufacturing” along Bellflower Boulevard between Alondra Boulevard and the southern city boundary south of Rose Street.
The vote was 3-0 with Mayor Dan Koops and Mayor Pro Tem Ray Dunton recusing themselves because they own businesses in that part of the city, City Clerk Myra Ochiqui said.
Elizabeth Corpuz, director of planning and building services; and Jim DellaLonga, director of economic development; said the action was recommended, after a study, by a firm called Recast City as a way to fill vacant buildings and provide jobs.
DellaLonga told a reporter that promoting the plan would begin immediately with new development coming in the next three months to a year.
In their report to the council, Corpuz and DellaLonga noted that the city hired Recast City last October to study the potential of allowing small scale artisanal manufacturing in the downtown area as a way to fill vacant store fronts and continue the revitalization of downtown Bellflower.”
The report from Recast said the city could not reinvigorate itself under the current downtown model.
“The current model of downtown is likely to deteriorate over time if nothing happens,” the report said. “If the downtown cannot reposition itself in the region, then success will be slow for the city,
downtown will stay sleepy and investment will continue to be spotty.
“The city is likely to lose people who appreciate the downtown, lose people who believe in this community and lose hope of being more than a cross-through place,” the Recast City report stated.
In January, a Recast representative conducted a workshop, describing the small-scale manufacturing sector, how it can help downtowns and main streets and what the next steps would be to continue on this path.
Since that workshop, the Recast representative had held several Zoom meetings with city staff and property owners, local leaders and small businesses to get feedback and input on the small-scale manufacturing idea for downtown Bellflower, Corpuz and DellaLonga said in their report.
Those who participated generally favored the plan, DellaLonga said.
“Small scale and artisanal manufacturing involves the use of small hand, mechanical, and electronic tools to manufacture finished products,” the report said. “Typical artisan manufacturing uses include, without limitation, coffee roasters, chocolatiers, 3-D printing prototyping, leatherworking, woodworking, breweries, distilleries, bakeries, jewelry making and clothing/apparel manufacturing.
“These businesses typically have one to 50 employees and have a small retail storefront for their products.”
Those type of businesses could potentially revitalize downtown Bellflower by filling in vacant storefronts, increasing the daytime population of the Downtown, and increasing jobs including higher-paying manufacturing type jobs, Corpuz and DellaLonga said in their report.
“Downtown Bellflower struggles to attract people and active businesses to create a lively destination for residents and others in the region,” the report added. “Currently, many service and medical businesses operate in the existing buildings of downtown Bellflower, creating less and less opportunity for a vibrant destination both north and south of the freeway.”
The consulting firm says manufacturing business owners are likely to be local residents whose employees will average, 50-100% more in salaries than their service or retail counterparts.