The Exchange, which has office and restaurant space, was previously a JCPenney.

The Exchange, which has office and restaurant space, was previously a JCPenney.

A former JCPenney store in Bellflower has been converted into a creative office, coworking and food space.

The abandoned store at 17434 Bellflower Blvd., which had operated as a JCPenney from 1952 to 1979, was transformed by Bellflower-based developer and builder Howard CDM and Long Beach-based architects Studio One Eleven.


Howard CDM, previously based in Long Beach, has its new headquarters at the property.


“The City of Bellflower understands what a gem it has in its underused downtown, and we do too,” Howard CDM President and Chief Executive Martin Howard said in a statement. “By bringing our 50 employees to this new development, we add another energy jolt to the community while providing a healthy and attractive work environment.”


The new property is called the Exchange and has 41,000 square feet. In addition to housing Howard CDM on the third floor, the building also has an Ironfire Workspaces coworking facility on the existing mezzanine. The coworking outpost is 8,500 square feet and opened in May.

 
The building will also have a restaurateur on the ground level. The brand has not yet been announced. A new mezzanine was created at the front of the building that will offer private dining.


“When we walked the building, it was a week away from being demolished. The city saw the building as an eyesore because it was closed since 1979. … We saw opportunity everywhere,” Studio One Eleven Senior Principal Michael Bohn said.
He added that the building was in great shape, made of concrete and had brick and wood features that the firm wanted to keep.


“You can’t recreate anything like this unless you have an astronomical budget,” Bohn said.


There was a need for office space in the area, he added, and the existing property allowed Studio One Eleven and Howard CDM to execute an affordable conversion into a cool office space.


Exchange is the third collaboration by Studio One Eleven and Howard CDM in Bellflower.

 
The firms also worked together on SteelCraft Bellflower, an outdoor eating area constructed with repurposed shipping containers.


In addition, they paired up for Bellflower New Hope Temporary Service Center, which offers homeless and transitional housing.


Bohn said SteelCraft is in the northern end of downtown Bellflower, while the Exchange is on the southern end. He said he hopes other projects will come soon to the area.


“These first investments are really critical,” he said. “It starts to force business owners to say to themselves what can we do to be better.”


Bohn said part of the reason the company has done so much work in Bellflower is that the city has a self-certification program where licensed professionals can self-certify that drawings are code compliant, which speeds up the process.


Studio One Eleven is also working on a public-private collaboration with the City of Bellflower to revitalize Bellflower Boulevard.


The project received a $1 million grant from the California Department of
Transportation.

 
Plans for the street include new trees, protected curbside parking and bike lanes.
It is expected to be completed in summer 2022.


The company is interested in continuing to do work in Bellflower and is actively looking at several sites that could bring more housing to the downtown area, likely replacing surface parking lots to do so.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.