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Queen Mary Restoration Efforts Continue As Ship Marks 20th Anniversary Of Historic Designation

By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer

April 10, 2013 - While the Queen Mary will mark its 20th year as a registered national historic place on April 15, efforts over the past five years have taken shape in the form of a conservation management plan to guide restoration and preservation of the ship as an art piece and tourist destination.

As one of the crown jewels of Long Beach since 1967, the Queen Mary has fascinated locals and tourists from across the globe. The ship underwent a substantial conversion from the point it permanently docked in Long Beach’s harbor to 1971. Part of that conversion was to redesign the ship as a destination with a hotel, event space and attractions on board.

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“I don’t know that those making the decision really understood how she would be reigned years later as a historic asset,” John Thomas, the ship’s historic consultant, told the Business Journal. “Today we are working with the city to take more of a focus of the ship being a historical art piece as well as a destination.” With the number of historic ships dwindling, and the fact that many of those that do remain have been gutted, Thomas said, “There’s fear out there for a lot of these ships right now.”

Thomas has been working with the ship’s management organization, Save The Queen, since 2008. He was brought aboard to assist with developing a conservation management plan for the Queen Mary. Thomas said he and his conservation team work with City of Long Beach Asset Management Bureau Manager Victor Grgas and his bureau to come up with the most appropriate protocols and treatments for the ship. There is still a large quantity of furniture, artwork and other items in storage aboard the ship to be explored and used in restoring the ship in the adaptive reuse process, according to Thomas.

The conservation management plan is the guiding book for the restoration and preservation of the Queen Mary and includes both short-term and long-term actions to address multiple tracks for adaptive reuse of the ship, Thomas said. Approximately 70 percent of the plan is research, 20 percent is actions to be taken and 10 percent is evaluation of what has been done.

The most recent development from implementing the management plan is a request for proposals (RFP) to be issued by the City of Long Beach in approximately four weeks for a maritime survey of the ship’s structure, lifeboat restoration, an evaluation of the ship’s pool for reuse and refurbishment of the ship’s side shell. Based on the results of the RFP, Thomas said those items would be completed by June. Save The Queen spent more than $5 million from 2008 to 2010 to support research and development of the conservation plan and another $3 million to $4 million between 2010 and 2012. The conservation management plan was completed and adopted by the City of Long Beach as an adaptive reuse plan nearly two years ago, according to Thomas.

Many will say the ship was not maintained in the past, Grgas and Thomas indicated. But the two concurred that funding is being spent “in the right places” to enhance the experience and extend the life of the ship as an art asset and destination. Another $8 million is lined up to be spent between now and beyond 2014, Thomas said, and the ship’s designation as a national historic landmark “enables us to be more critical” in the conservation process.

Working on the multiple tracks outlined in the plan, Thomas and Grgas said preservation and restoration efforts continue as they look for a model for a new fundraising and communication arm for the Queen Mary; potentially a non-profit 501c3 similar to those operating with Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Los Alamitos. “They seem to have been very effective with similar city-owned historic assets and related challenges re funding and grant sourcing,” Thomas said. “Our goal is to have a working group by end of 2013, early 2014.”

Want to see more about what's going on at the Queen Mary? Take a photo tour of the restoration work and the renovations aboard the historic ship.