By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
May 7, 2013 – Nearly two years ago, during the initial debate on where to move the harbor department staff due to seismic issues with its current structure, the Business Journal wrote that one possibility would be a building within a new civic center. Today that potential exists as harbor employees are relocating later this year to temporary offices on airport property and city councilmembers are seeking a vision for a new civic center complex.
Late last month the Long Beach City Council authorized city staff to move forward in issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ) from interested parties.
According to the RFQ, the current civic center property does not adequately represent the status of Long Beach as a center for goods movement and driver in the regional economy. The center, as outlined in the RFQ, includes city hall, the main library, Lincoln Park, a subterranean parking garage, the four-story garage on Broadway, the old county courthouse, the public safety building and 230 W. 3rd St. All but the public safety building would be part of a civic center reconstruction as that structure recently underwent seismic retrofits.
Based on seismic studies done seven years ago, the four outer cement wings of the 15-story city hall are not structurally sound nor are they up to post-1973 building standards. Approximately 718 employees currently work in the city hall building. The cost of seismic retrofits of city hall was estimated at $82 million in 2006. Full renovation – including building code upgrades and tenant improvements – increase the 2006 estimate to $119. In today’s dollars, full renovation of the 40-year-old building would cost approximately $170 million.
“The existing Civic Center was designed in the International style of architecture and was constructed in the mid-1970s with an extensive use of board-formed concrete,” according to the RFQ. “The entire Civic Center design lacks human scale and is oblivious to its surroundings. The Civic Center is difficult to access, has poor streetfront visibility, and lacks activity and vitality after business hours. In summary, it does not meet the functional and aesthetic needs of the city.”
As it “suffers from functional obsolescence,” along with other functional issues of structures in the current civic center, the majority of the city council and staff agreed on the need for full renovation. Other functional problems include “near-constant water leakage” at the main library, which had a rooftop garden deemed unsafe for public use. All landscaping at Lincoln Park has been removed to reduce further saturation of the main library roof and prevent more leakage.
The courthouse, located on about 3.78 acres fronting Ocean Boulevard, was acquired by the former Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA) from the State of California in 2010. Though it is currently operational, the building will become obsolete with the opening of the new courthouse later this year. With the dissolution of the RDA, the property is now owned by the city as the successor agency.
Though city hall and the main library are identified and recommended as part of a unified civic center, the RFQ indicates that the city is open to alternative locations within the downtown area for either building. And, with the Port of Long Beach seeking a new permanent headquarters, the RFQ also indicates there may be opportunities for creating space within the civic center for port administration.
Other private development within the civic center would be considered, and the city is encouraging commercial activities and office space for rent be included in a new city hall, according to the RFQ. The goal is to keep the cost of operating and occupying a new city hall to no more than what is currently being paid – $10.47 million, plus $2.13 million annually for leasing about 112,500 square feet of off-site office space.
A broad group of firms are invited to participate in the RFQ, “including those proposing to employ taxable and/or tax-exempt bond financing” of the project. The city is working on putting together an introductory project meeting on June 5 for interested parties. In addition, Vice Mayor Robert Garcia and 2nd District Councilmember Suja Lowenthal are currently planning community forums and opportunities for public engagement on the proposed civic center project. According to the 2nd Council District office, a forum date is likely to be announced this week (May 6-10).
The RFQ is available for download online at www.lbds.info and closes at 4 p.m. on July 26. For more information, contact Michael Conway, director of business and property development, at 562/570.5282 or Michael.Conway@longbeach.gov.