When Shooshani Developers, LLC purchased City Place Long Beach 12 years ago, Managing Member Tony Shooshani knew that Long Beach was on the cusp of great change. In the interim, there was a little hiccup: the Great Recession. But now, Shooshani is seeing the potential in Long Beach – and in his property – realized.
“Twelve years ago, we bought this project through an exchange of a property that we sold in San Diego,” Shooshani told the Business Journal. “We had a development opportunity there that didn’t happen. And I was looking for a city and an environment where I could actually make a difference and be involved.”
Tony Shooshani, managing member of Shooshani Developers, LLC, believes Downtown Long Beach is in the midst of a rebirth. His firm is reinvesting in the six-square-block property it owns in the heart of the area, formerly known as City Place. Improvements to the portion of the project fronting 3rd Street at The Promenade are nearly complete. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)
Shooshani continued, “And the exciting part here was that I saw that there was change to come. I knew that this was such an amazing urban metropolitan beachfront downtown that it was just a matter of time for the rest of the world to discover it.”
There are now more than 50 real estate developments planned or underway throughout the city, mostly concentrated in downtown.
“You know, some cities go through a resurgence or rebirth. I think this is the birth of a brand new downtown,” Shooshani said. “I think we’re on the cusp of something amazing and special.”
The scale and design of the developments planned in downtown are like “nothing we’ve ever seen before,” Shooshani said. “Our skyline in five years is going to be so modern and high tech, and we’ll be the coolest downtown, I think, between San Francisco and San Diego. And the opportunities are still immense here.”
Shooshani Developers, which is family owned and operated, invested in City Place because of the potential for growth in Downtown Long Beach that is now coming to fruition. But before City Place could undergo its own transformation – one Shooshani said he always knew would come – there were some bumps along the way.
“I was not anticipating for Walmart to close its location. I was not anticipating for Fresh & Easy to go bankrupt. And we were not anticipating for Nordstrom Rack to go dark and to vacate,” Shooshani said, referring to what were once City Place’s largest tenants.
First came the closure of Nordstrom Rack in 2013, which Shooshani admitted came as a shock. “But my thought was, everything is an opportunity,” he said. “I knew that I didn’t want to just put a dollar store here and call it a day and move on and just collect rent. I knew that we would have to transform it.”
The official logo for The Streets, formerly known as City Place.
After Nordstrom Rack shuttered, Shooshani found out that P+R Architects (now known as Retail Design Collaborative) and its subsidiary, Studio One Eleven, were considering moving their offices from the Landmark Square office tower when their lease expired in 2016.
“I personally reached out to them and brought them down here, and we met,” Shooshani said. “I shared with them what my vision was. . . . I wanted very clean buildings, modern buildings, steel, big windows. A sense of architecture that really didn’t exist, I think, in Long Beach. And that would really upgrade the whole community and the whole downtown.”
Late last year, Retail Design Collaborative and Studio One Eleven moved into the old Nordstrom Rack, which has been transformed into an open, creative office space. They were the first tenant to move into the redesigned portion of the project at 3rd Street and the Promenade North.
City Place was recently renamed “The Streets” in a nod to what Shooshani hopes will be achieved by the eventual, complete repositioning of all six blocks – 3rd to 6th streets and Pine Avenue to Long Beach Boulevard.
“Where I think before City Place was more of an island by itself, now it will be an integral seamless part of what our downtown is,” Shooshani said. To break up that island, the various blocks of the projects will feature different designs but with similar aesthetics. When the project is complete in five years, the idea is for The Streets to feel more like an organic urban core – a network of unique streets – than a blocked-off shopping center.
For Shooshani, who was born in Iran and raised in Beverly Hills, real estate is a passion. “It is not just a job for me, or means of making a living. I love creating neighborhoods,” he said. Shooshani holds a degree in real estate, business finance and insurance from California State University, Northridge. Second only to his passion for real estate is his passion for Ferraris, which he collects and often loans to museums around the world.
Tony Shooshani, managing member of Shooshani Developers, stands on The Promenade North off of 3rd Street. This portion of his company’s project, recently renamed The Streets, is undergoing contemporary facade and interior renovations. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)
Shooshani pointed out that he did not start out at the top level that he holds today with Shooshani Developers. He worked his way up from the bottom level of the company, which his father founded. Shooshani Developers owns several other real estate developments, including Venice Crossroads, a 160,000-square-foot “urban infill project,” and numerous residential projects in West Los Angeles and West Hollywood, among others.
“I learned the process of property management from the ground up,” Shooshani said. “I started in the lowest position. I was the local property manager that would be there with the plumber cleaning out restrooms. And in one of the projects I was valet attendant,” he said. He eventually obtained licenses as a broker and general contractor.
Since taking over management of then-City Place 12 years ago, Shooshani has not only invested in Long Beach financially, but he has also invested his time. He was quick to join the board of the Downtown Long Beach Associates, now known as the Downtown Long Beach Alliance. “It [was] for me an opportunity to be better acquainted with the community. And that’s something I had never done in any of our other projects,” he said.
Recently, Shooshani purchased a home in Long Beach. “I have always wanted to have a home on the water, and I have always wanted to have a base and a home here in Long Beach as well,” he said. Living in the city where he works and invests makes a difference “because you get to see the culture and the diversity of a city and a community much more if you’re living in it,” he noted.
“I have grown to not only love and appreciate and enjoy Long Beach, but this is my home now,” Shooshani reflected. “I truly can’t see myself living anywhere else. I love living here. I love the water. I love the people. I love the community. I love the diversity. I love the food. . . . And I love the direction it’s going.”