Rendering of Lincoln Park courtesy of the Plenary Edgemoor.
Updated plans for the Civic Center, particularly regarding its impact on Lincoln Park, were unveiled today during the Long Beach Parks and Recreation Commission morning meeting. During a roughly one hour presentation, developers from Plenary Edgemoor detailed proposed blueprints that could transform the park into a modern multi-use facility that would still incorporate parts of the city’s history and culture.
The presentation included details on everything from the types of plants and trees that would be incorporated into the design, the placements of stages for future musical performances and the types of surfaces that are slated to be installed in both the dog and children play areas.
To integrate the park more into the city, the design team proposed to open up the entire civic center project by having Chestnut and Cedar Avenues run through the complex instead of dead-ending at its perimeters. The plan would include an overhaul of the existing layout, moving the Main Library to the north side of the complex, where it would be bordered by Broadway while the dog park would be moved south and look out toward Ocean Boulevard.
Plans for rest of the roughly $360 million complex—which includes two separate 11-story buildings for the city and the Port of Long Beach—are scheduled to be unveiled at a Planning Commission meeting later in the evening, but the morning study session focused on the park and the issues that still remain as the city inches closer toward finalizing a deal with Plenary Edgemoor, the group that was awarded the bid in December 2014. A vote to execute a contract with the design firm could come as early as the end of this year.
Jeffrey Fullerton, a director with the firm, said the group was charged with creating a significantly more modern facility, while at the same time not going past the point of funding that the city already invests in its current civic center. Fullerton said the group is proud that it has kept the price range “very much within that general balloon” within which the city asked them to stay. The payments made as part of the financing plan would also include the day-to-day maintenance of the park, work that is currently contracted out.
According to the plans revealed this morning, the park is set to include a 4,500 square foot playground—something that is non-existent in the current Lincoln Park design—as well as a 6,500 square foot dog park and spaces for small- and large-scale musical performances.
The commission’s president, Ron Antonette, raised concerns that the design had more space for dogs than it did children, something that he said the firm should consider, given Mayor Robert Garcia’s vision that the downtown area would become a future hub for families.
“The dog park is smaller than the existing dog park so we have made some of that shift,” Fullerton said in addressing Antonette’s concern. “The fact is right now there are certainly more dogs downtown than kids. I don’t know what the future demographics will hold or if we’ll have to make adjustments to that.”
Adjusting to the variable use nature of the park was something that Jennifer Guthrie said was a theme in the design process. Planters used to lessen the divide caused by the promenade between the north and south sides of the parks can also be used as stages for small-scale musical performances. Walking loops and grassy areas were left to allow for presentation space, but could also double for exercise or picnic areas. One particular open space was left open at the Mayor’s request in the hopes that a large art donation, potentially one on the scale of Chicago’s famous Bean, could fill the void.
“The goal of this project is to bring it all back together again and reconnect the city,” Guthrie said.
However, the issues were not constrained to the disparity between dog park space and child playground space. Questions about the lack of added parking to accommodate the large crowds the firm boasts could fit inside the new park and what to do about the people who currently inhabit it were points of concern for the commission.
Long Beach's Director of Development Services Amy Bodek said that some 25-35 homeless people gravitate there on a regular basis, and that the city has taken steps to help mitigate the population there before construction starts. Still, the number of people who utilize the park’s “dead areas," especially at night, is a daily concern.
She said the fact that they will have to relocate somewhere once the project commences is something the city is taking very seriously.
“City departments and staff are continuously doing outreach to try and relocate those homeless folks into permanent situations,” Bodek said. “It is a matter of constant trust with the outreach coordinators and the homeless. Everybody’s situation is different, and we have been able to relocate some of those homeless into permanent facilities, others are just not capable or choose not to participate in the system.”
Bodek said there are nearly 17,000 parking spaces in the downtown area, much of which are underutilized on a daily basis. In the event of a large crowd, certain lots currently allocated for city staff or even the lots at the courthouse could be opened up for public use. However, Bodek said the city anticipates that most of the performances could be attended by those who walk to the park, as they’re more likely going to draw people from the community.
“We expect that if the symphony is going to be there it’s also going to be a neighborhood draw,” Bodek said. “It’s not going to be that people who traditionally go to the Terrace Theater to see the symphony, it’s going to be much more neighborhood-oriented.”
Keeping the park part of the neighborhood is the job that local architect Kelly Mcleod was charged with when she came on board with the project developers. By doing the series of outreach meetings, she and the group have gained a better grasp of what the community wants to remain in the park and what should be added to give it a Long Beach flair.
She said it’s important to make this park not only an asset for downtown, but for the entire city.
“That’s why we’re reaching out to the community and will continue to do so to get feedback that will give that sense of ownership to our community,” Mcleod said.
The plans revealed Thursday morning are not final and could be amended by either the city council or by recommendations made by Parks and Recreation to the council, anytime between now and when construction is tentatively scheduled to commence.