Entrepreneur Martin D. Howard is a longtime resident, community activist and business owner in the City of Long Beach. As President + CEO of Howard CDM and Managing Partner of SteelCraft, his community role varies from contractor, developer and operator of many significant developments that contribute to the architectural community throughout our chapter. His work can be organized into five important categories which makes him a strong candidate for this year’s Design Advocate Award. These categories include Community+Food, Neighborhood Revitalization, Helping the Underserved, Mobility and Construction Technology. In all his work, design plays a key role in creating value, place and identity resulting in neighborhood pride.
With a history of building many of the most well know restaurants in Southern California, Martin decided to co-develop a model of well-crafted food venues at reasonable prices that could be available to more modest communities. As an operator of several local restaurants such as Michael’s Downtown and Chianina Steakhouse, Martin co-originated SteelCraft Long Beach, a unique outdoor urban eatery where food and beverage support community, localism and craft.
SteelCraft is housed in repurposed shipping containers and organized in a manner to support outdoor dining and entertainment. The model was so successful and instrumental in reinvigorating Long Beach Boulevard in Bixby Knolls, dozens of cities have reached out requesting a SteelCraft in their communities including many in our chapter such as Carson, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, Lomita, Redondo Beach, Whittier, Paramount, Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs.
Since SteelCraft Long Beach, the model has been created in both downtown Bellflower and Garden Grove. Both cities see SteelCraft as an anchor to help revitalize their downtowns. Due to the focus of outdoor dining, SteelCraft has been resilient during the pandemic. The Garden Grove project has won an APA award at both the local and state level.
Neighborhood Revitalization + Culture
Fifteen years ago the once thriving commercial boulevard in Bixby Knolls was tired and in significant decline. Martin purchased several key properties, revitalized and re-tenanted them resulting in a corridor that supports creative, technology and medical firms. Currently he has purchased and restored fourteen buildings reestablishing Long Beach Boulevard as an artful dynamic business corridor. He has also purchased and maintained the integrity of the Cambridge Building, originally designed by Long Beach modernist architect Edward Killingsworth.
This model of investing in overlooked communities is now being initiated in downtown Bellflower with his team. In addition to SteelCraft Bellflower mentioned earlier, Martin is in the process of revitalizing a former JC Penny building that was condemned by the city, to house his headquarters on the third floor, a work share space on the second floor with food and beverage on the ground floor. Branded as The Exchange, the city will finance streetscape improvements and a public plaza immediately south to help spur further private investment.
Helping the Underserved
Martin has assisted with many non-profits including Children Today which involved the remodel of a building to accommodate a daycare center for homeless families. This project was the recipient of an ASLA Citation Award and is LEED Gold Certified.
As an avid cyclist, Martin is currently President of Bikeable Communities, a non-profit focusing on how our community is cultivating more biking and walking in our region. Working with Mark Bixby and former City Manager Pat West, he was instrumental in adding the pedestrian and bike infrastructure to the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement, Second Street Sharrows, Vista Bike Boulevard and delineated bike lanes on Bellflower Boulevard.
Martin’s firm has been utilizing shipping container construction for several years on their outdoor eateries in Long Beach, Bellflower and Garden Grove as well as the homeless shelter in Buena Park. He is currently overseeing the construction of a multi-family development reusing shipping containers that will house the homeless when complete in the summer of 2021. He will also initiate construction of three steel modular developments in Los Angeles in early spring that will house senior, women and youth homeless populations.