Old City Hall demolition expected to be complete by next year

The complete demolition of the old City Hall building could take until early 2022 as the city’s overhaul of its civic center continues to navigate through setbacks.

The City Council could approve an amendment to its contract with Plenary Properties Long Beach, LLC Tuesday to speed up the tear-down of the old building as Plenary works to complete construction of the new Lincoln Park, and find a new partner to develop the “Mid-block” site where the old City Hall is located.

While the park is expected to be completed by the end of 2021 “barring any unforeseen delays,” the demolition of the old City Hall building could stretch into 2022, according to a Jennifer Carey, a spokesperson for the city’s public works department.

Demolition work on the building could begin in the next few months and would likely be a drawn out process like the one the city undertook to clear the old courthouse so the new port and City Hall structures could be built.

“A controlled demolition is preferred as it not only addresses any hazardous material concerns but allows for the building materials to be properly sorted and recycled or disposed of properly,” Carey said.

A plan to develop the mid-block site into a mixed-use residential housing development with 580 units was approved, delayed and then eventually put on hold after the developer pulled out of the project in July.

Carey said Texas-based JPI Development was unable to find funding due to the pandemic but Plenary is in contract negotiations with another firm to move the project forward.

Christopher Koontz, deputy director of Long Beach Development Services told the Long Beach Business Journal in July that the new developer would be building the project under the plans that JPI abandoned. The residential development could take until 2023 to complete.

The decision to tear down the old building with no imminent construction plans comes as the the old City Hall building, still under city control, has become a public safety issue, according to a city memo.

The memo sent to the City Council this month said the building is regularly vandalized and building codes will require utilities to be reconnected to the old City Hall if it’s not demolished, which will create a “significant” cost that the city has not budgeted for. Vacant buildings are still required to meet certain standards under the city’s municipal code.

Demolition of the building was originally expected to be completed nine months after the city relocated to the new building in July 2019. Lincoln Park was originally scheduled to open in November.

The city will pay up to $1 million of the $8 million the demolition is expected to cost but instead of paying Plenary up front the city’s share will be deducted from money Plenary owes the city once it sells the mid-block site.

Plenary will owe the city about $6.3 million after it sells the mid-block site to a developer if the City Council approves the early demolition on Tuesday.

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