Two residential buildings that could serve as the heart of the new Civic Center received approval this year but their completion date could be pushed back further.

Completion of the new Long Beach Civic Center is facing delays again as the firm handling the construction is requesting an extension for the development of the block that currently holds the old City Hall building due to COVID-19 economic uncertainty.

The mid-block site was supposed to developed into a mixed-use development with nearly 600 residential units—some of them affordable—with 35,000 square feet of retail space below.

The original vision of that project included a boutique hotel that has since been discarded from renderings that were approved by the city’s planning commission earlier this year.

However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Plenary Properties Long Beach, the entity that the city entered into a public-private partnership to construct the new civic center, is asking for an extension on behalf of the firm that was set to develop the site.

The City Council is expected to approve a six-month extension Tuesday night, but in return will ask for concessions to ensure that completion the two elements of the Civic Center project—Lincoln Park and the Cedar Avenue connection from Broadway to Ocean Boulevard—are competed in the event that economic conditions worsen.

“Part of what we’re doing is taking that pessimistic view and making sure we are creating some protections for the city against that,” Long Beach Director of Public Works Craig Beck said.

Beck said that the city is asking in return that the $7.3 million leftover from a fund the city created for contingencies be repaid when the construction of Lincoln Park is completed, something that is projected to be done by summer 2021.

Lincoln Park was originally expected to be completed by November 2020 but complications encountered during the demolition of the old Main Library increased costs—asbestos was discovered in the ceiling—and took more time than was expected, Beck said.

If the park is not completed by September 2021, Plenary would be required to pay the city damages. If the mid-block is not transferred by the long-stop date of September 2022, Plenary would have to pay the city $1 million for the construction of the Cedar Avenue connector.

Should the $7.3 million not be repaid, the city would hold onto the mid-block site as collateral. Beck said that the site had recently been valued at upward of $50 million so he expects the project to move forward at some point before 2022.

He added that the value of land and the recent drop in construction costs should incentivize the parties to move forward with the project.

“We all hope for the best but we needed to start putting in some more protections,” Beck said.

In March, the planning commission approved a plan that included two eight-story residential buildings that were set to be developed by JPI Development, a firm from Irving, Texas. The city was set to transfer the property in April; JPI would then have 16 months to demolish the old city hall building.

That vote took place about a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency and local economies ground to a halt.

The city is facing a mounting budget shortfall and has already delayed or will have to delay several other projects that had been approved. Large projects like the beach concession stands, some park improvements and a major overhaul of the Long Beach Airport are all likely to face delays.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.