Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Culture Corridor

Cambodian musicians are among the performers who represent the diverse culture of the Atlantic Avenue Corridor, where Union Bank Renaissance opened in Long Beach five years ago. (Stephen Carr / Staff Photographer)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

By Kelly Puente, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/18/2009

LONG BEACH --- Five years ago, Union Bank Renaissance took a chance on a struggling neighborhood in Central Long Beach — something no other bank was willing to do.

"For 40 years no one wanted to take that challenge," said branch manager Victor Otiniano. "But we wanted to work with the neighborhood and help small businesses. We're a big bank with a community attitude."

On Sunday, Union Bank Renaissance, located at 1900 Atlantic Ave., celebrated its fifth anniversary with a multicultural celebration at Houssels Auditorium in Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. The event, meant to honor small businesses and recognize the rich cultural diversity of Central Long Beach, featured Cambodian folk music, a mariachi band and Peruvian and Bangladeshi dancers.

"This is a tribute to the small business leaders in the community," said 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews. "Keep up the good work."

When Union Bank opened its doors in 2004, city officials and residents hoped it would bring business to the blighted area of Long Beach just north of Pacific Coast Highway. Dubbed Renaissance Square, the bank was part of a $3 million Redevelopment Agency-funded project in the Atlantic Avenue corridor.

Tax consultant Rolando Navarro said he opened his business, Rolly's Tax Service, 3913 Long Beach Blvd., four years ago with the help of Union Bank. Rolando was one of several small business owners and clients of Union Bank recognized on Sunday.

"If you work hard, you get recognized," he said.

The celebration was also a "phase three" event of the Leadership Long Beach Connected Corridor, a project that seeks to transform neighborhoods along Atlantic Avenue by creating connections between residents and small businesses within the community.

The organization, which hosts community events and forums, began "phase one" in 2007, focusing on a stretch of Atlantic from the North Long Beach border to Del Amo Boulevard. "Phase two" focused on Atlantic from Del Amo to Spring Street, and "phase three" is now focusing on the stretch from Spring to Pacific Coast Highway.

The organization will begin "phase four" next spring, focusing on Atlantic from PCH to Ocean Boulevard.

For more information visit Connected Corridor's Web site.

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