By Mayor Diane DuBois
Many cities the size of Lakewood would be envious to have a major shopping mall like we do…add to that having a mall with a special history that’s tied so closely to the heritage of our city itself. When the developers of Lakewood built the 17,000 homes that comprised the heart of our community starting in 1950, they left the center of the town as open space in order to construct something bold and innovative. Once investors and merchants were persuaded to support the daring idea, construction started on the then-largest shopping mall in America…Lakewood Center.
Up until that time, large department stores and shopping centers were located only in the “downtown” areas of major cities, not in new “untested” suburbs like Lakewood. Just as Lakewood itself was an experiment as the largest planned community in America in the early 1950s, so was Lakewood Center. And just as Lakewood as a community succeeded…and continues to succeed over 60 years later…so does Lakewood Center. Of course, the retail world is challenging and has evolved a lot in 60 years, and so has Lakewood Center. In the 1970s, the original open-air mall was enclosed. Restaurant Row was developed on the northern portion of the mall property along Candlewood Street and became very popular.
In 2009, Costco was persuaded to open its first-ever mall-based store at Lakewood Center, and it too has become very popular. Individual stores come and go at Lakewood Center, just as they do at any mall. But the merchants of Lakewood Center work hard to adapt to the times and to appeal to the broad base of customers not just in Lakewood but in the mall’s large “market area” that includes Long Beach, Bellflower, Paramount and other nearby communities. Lakewood Center has one other big advantage that many malls do not. It’s not just a traditional mall. Lakewood Center is a massive shopping complex that includes Albertson’s, Home Depot, Pacific Theatres, Best Buy, and now a Farmers Market on Saturdays. That huge amount of commercial space makes Lakewood Center the 2nd largest shopping complex in Los Angeles County. Beyond the historic pride and convenience that Lakewood Center provides to Lakewood residents, there are the sales tax dollars from the mall that are the lifeblood to providing quality city services in Lakewood.
Without a healthy Lakewood Center, the City of Lakewood would not have the financial resources to provide the level of park, recreation, law enforcement, street repaving, tree trimming and other services that we all appreciate here. So, this holiday season…and any season of the year…when you have a decision to make on where to shop, think about whether you could do that shopping at Lakewood Center or at any of the other fine merchants in our community.
When you “Shop Lakewood” you keep a portion of your sales tax dollars in Lakewood. Many local merchants, including Lakewood Center, are also charitable donors to community causes and events in Lakewood that improve the quality of life here. By shopping at Lakewood Center, you help to keep alive an important part of our city’s heritage and history, and you help it succeed just like we want Lakewood as a whole to succeed. As we enter the holiday season, I want to wish you and your family the very best on behalf of my colleagues on the Lakewood City Council. Happy Holidays everyone!