Renderings of the new Civic Center. Photos courtesy of Plenary Edgemoor Civic Partners
The Long Beach Planning Commission got its first peek at the updated plans for the new Civic Center project as members of the Plenary Edgemoor development team finished a day’s worth of presentations with a stop inside the City Council chambers Thursday night.
The $360 million project, which could be approved as early as this year, has seemingly remained unchanged since the group first presented its design to the council during the bid process late last year. In fact, the group played the same video it played for the council members during the bid process before it dug into its presentation on the updated plans. Jeff Fullerton, a director with the Edgemoor Real Estate, said that although the group has conducted over 70 outreach meetings to date, that doesn’t mean the efforts will stop.
“We’ve done many outreach meetings and community meetings and we don’t plan to stop yet,” Fullerton said. “We’re now in this process of starting study sessions and we’ll be back to look for approvals from both the planning commission and city council.”
The basic layout has remained intact, with the new City Hall and Port of Long Beach buildings being located at the corner of Magnolia Ave and Ocean and the Main Library and Lincoln Park—the two have swapped orientation on its respective block—sandwiching a proposed commercial development to include a hotel and residential units.
It is expected to be completed in a series of construction projects, starting first with the construction of the new port and City Hall buildings at the southwest corner of the super block, then removing the existing City Hall and Main Library. That would be followed by the completion of the renovated Lincoln Park and new Main Library, which will be moved to the corner of Pacific and Broadway. The last phase of the project is slated to be the mixed-use facility, which will sit in the current location of City Hall. It’s expected to include residential elements, a boutique hotel and retail, the likes of which have yet to be determined but Fullerton said would be critical to the site working.
“We think that the private development adds an important component to this site and it’s key to make the economics work,” Fullerton said. “But it’s also important from a point of providing vibrancy and activation to the overall site.”
It’s estimated that the construction of the Civic Center will create some 3,700 jobs, of which Plenary Edgemoor has vowed to make as many as possible come from hires within the city. Fullerton said that at the end of the 40-year contract with the city, the Civic Center would be handed over in “like new” condition, based on a facility condition index, to ensure that the city won't require another new civic center at the end of the contract.
The plans solicited few negative comments from the public in attendance, with one man questioning what would be done with the fully-matured trees that exist inside the civic center complex currently, and a member of the commission noting that with all the glass proposed for the use on the outside of the new Port and City Hall buildings he might have to wear sunglasses to avoid the potential glare cast by the sun.
Lindsay Sarquilla was on hand to unveil the city’s supplemental environmental impact report that was put together to mitigate any future issues posed by the construction of the new civic center. Sarquilla, an associate environmental planner with Rincon Consultants, which was hired by the city to conduct the EIR, said that most of the findings had to do with construction and demolition issues. The report also found a risk for new tenants of the Civic Center because of its proximity to the port, but mostly because residential units currently don’t exist at the civic center.
The report called for noise and vibration control plans if any demolition were to occur by implosion, and noted temporary construction impacts like fencing, graffiti and blocked views would exist while the project was ongoing. It also stated that demolition of buildings could cause current inhabitants like vermin to scatter to surrounding buildings, so measures should be taken to avoid that kind of sudden migration.
“We identified a mitigation measure for this that requires fumigation prior to demolition in order to protect public health,” Sarquilla said.
Sarquilla said the EIR is currently in its public review period, which ends September 17. Rincon is aiming for a formal council hearing of the document at some point in November.
The process of getting the new Civic Center planned, approved and eventually built was playfully referred to as a rollercoaster on some days, and a hamster-wheel on others by Director of Development Services Amy Bodek.
The multiple moving parts—including the EIR, Plenary’s outreach meetings and the demolition of the old county courthouse—seem to be moving toward a culmination point, with city officials stating that an approval of the project could come as early as the end of this year. However, a theme of both the unveiling at the Planning Commission meeting and the earlier presentation made to the Parks and Recreation Commission on the future Lincoln Park was that the project was still in flux and could change a lot between now and when it’s actually erected.
"Today is sort of the beginning of a long series of potential approvals leading up to the city council potentially considering to approve a transaction by the end of this year," Bodek said.