Lincoln Park to feature recreation, public art, new renderings show

The new Lincoln Park could include basketball courts, a soccer field and giant Lincoln penny art installation, according to renderings shown to the Long Beach City Council Tuesday night.

The revised plans for the park were revealed Tuesday during the City Council meeting where the council was voting to approve a sped-up demolition of the old city hall building as crews work to finish Lincoln Park by the fall.

Lincoln Park was closed in advance of the rebuild of the Main Library, which is now the Billie Jean King Main Library. While the library opened in September 2019, the site of the park and old city hall have remained fenced off as economic issues, some which were exacerbated by the pandemic, have slowed completion of the civic center.

Mayor Robert Garcia praised the new park plans, particularly the Lincoln penny art installation that is located along Ocean Boulevard in the rendering.

“I can guarantee you you’re going to have an endless stream of Long Beach residents and visitors posing in front of that penny and taking endless pictures,” Garcia said. “It’s probably going to be one of our most Instagrammed moments and sites across the city.”

The park is also expected to include a dog park, an outdoor reading room and other to-be-determined art installations, and even skateboarding facilities.

“We really wanted to make sure that this park has something for everyone,” Long Beach Director of Public Works Eric Lopez said.

A rendering of the new Lincoln Park shown from Ocean Boulevard. The park could include a Lincoln Penny art installation.

The new park is planned to be activated for 18 hours per day. Combined with maintenance and security costs, estimates for operating the park 18 hours per day are as high as $1.6 million annually.

But first the old city hall must go.

Lopez explained that the delays brought on by the pandemic have turned the old city hall building into a liability for the city.

A memo from Lopez earlier this month had outlined that the building had become a constant vandalism target.

Last week, Long Beach Police Department officers responded to the site as a person was seen throwing items off the roof. No one was arrested but a wheel barrow of copper pipes harvested from the building was found inside.

Lopez’s memo also mentioned that if it were not torn down soon, the city would have to reconnect utilities to the building to keep it up to code. That cost is not something the city budgeted for.

The council’s unanimous vote Tuesday will allow for the early demolition of the building, which could be completed as soon as early 2022, a city spokesperson told the Post last week.

The city and the developer had previously agreed to wait to demolish the building until after the block it sits on, called the “Midblock,” could be sold to a third-party developer for a planned residential project.

A project that could have brought 580 units of apartments and retail between City Hall and the library-park site fell through after the construction firm that was approved to build it pulled out because of financial issues.

The Midblock plan is not being abandoned. City officials said last year that it will pursue another construction firm to build the same plans approved by the planning commission and City Council earlier in 2020.

The roughly $1 million that the city will put toward the demolition will be deducted from the $7.3 million it was scheduled to receive once the Midblock site is sold for development.

[Editors note: The story has been updated to include the correct spelling of Billie Jean King’s name.]

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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