A rendering of the new Long Beach Civic Center.
Friday will mark the beginning of what’s expected to be about a three-year process to erect the new City Hall and Port of Long Beach Headquarters, as city officials and the public will gather for a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the construction phase of the nearly $580 million project.
The new City Hall and Port headquarters will share the footprint since vacated by the completed demolition of the old Long Beach Courthouse earlier this year. The project will also include a new main library and a reconfigured Lincoln Park, as well as a residential, retail and hotel tower that will eventually replace the current City Hall structure.
“The new Civic Center will strengthen the connection between City Hall and the community, help revitalize the Downtown core and generate thousands of jobs,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a statement.
The projected move-in date for both the City Hall, Port and Library is June 2019, while the new Lincoln Park (2020) and residential-commercial tower will have later move-in dates, due to the existing structures needing to stay in place until they’re fully vacated.
A deal to approve the public-private partnership (P3) with the Plenary/Edgemoor Civic Partnership (PECP) was approved in December, with a unanimous vote by the city council. However, the journey to replace the current Civic Center began after a federally-directed investigation launched in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina found that the existing structure was seismically unsafe. A 2013 study confirmed that in the event of a large enough earthquake, city hall’s stairwells could break free and the structure itself could collapse.
The P3 partnership with PECP allowed the city to find a private company to pay the up front cost to construct the new Civic Center and, in return, the city will act as tenants for the first 40 years of its existence. The cost estimate for the city is approximately $14.48 million annually over the course of the lease, a figure that city staff says is slightly above the current $12.6 million annually the city pays to maintain the current structure, but less than the roughly $19 million annually it would cost to make the current Civic Center "like new."
After the 40-year lease, the property will be returned to the city and a portion of the contract with PECP stipulates that the facility should be handed over in no less than a “B” condition.
“We would like to thank the City and the Port for the opportunity to be in a long-term partnership delivering this transformative project, which will write a new chapter in the story of Long Beach,” said Plenary Concessions Executive Chairman Dale Bonner in a statement.
In total, the project stands to add six new buildings to the downtown skyline including the residential-commercial tower that is estimated to be the tallest addition, at 432 feet tall.
Construction on the tower is not expected to begin until at least the Spring of 2020. The tower is permitted to operate a 200-room hotel, but because there’s no guarantee that the market for such a hotel will exist, the inclusion of a hotel is merely a proposal. City staff projects that the tower, once completed, could generate upward of $940,000 annually.
Highlights of the plan include the reconfiguration of streets that currently don’t run through the Civic Center (1st Street, Broadway, Chestnut, Cedar) in an attempt better connect the center to the community. The revamped Lincoln Park is slated to include performance spaces for live music as well as historical walking loops and dog and children’s play areas.
It will also be designed to the "gold standard" of the Resilience-based Earthquake Design Initiative (REDI) meaning that in the event of a design level earthquake, there is a 50 percent confidence level that there would be a very low probability of injuries and zero deaths. A design-level earthquake is between 7.2 and 7.5 on the Richter scale.
Once the structures are complete, the POLB and city will both be housed in a singular structure that the city says will “highlight governmental consolidation” and promote inclusiveness with the community. The Port is currently housed at a temporary headquarters, and Harbor Commission President Lori Ann Guzmán commented on the excitement of finally coming home to the downtown sphere.
“When we moved from the Harbor to our interim headquarters more than two years ago, it was always our intention to return to the Downtown area, to a permanent home close to our facilities and business partners,” Guzmán said in a statement. “This groundbreaking brings that goal to fruition. I’d like to thank City and Port staff, and the Board of Harbor Commissioners for their commitment to make this iconic Civic Center project a reality.”