The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners is making good on its promise to return to downtown Long Beach.
Keeping that vow is now officially part of a larger plan for the Port of Long Beach to partner with the City on a new civic center complex. The proposal calls for the complex to house the City Harbor Department headquarters, City Hall, the Main Library and Lincoln Park, and incorporate privately developed residential units, restaurants, retail stores and a hotel. The new civic center would replace the recently abandoned Superior Court building at Ocean Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue. The commercial retail component would replace the existing civic center. The Main Library and Lincoln Park would be completely rebuilt.
The Board of Harbor Commissioners voted Dec. 8 to endorse the plan. The vote committed the Port to working with the City’s preferred partner, Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners (PECP), as the private developer for the project.
“The Port has been participating in this process for nearly two years,” said Board President Doug Drummond. “As a municipal agency that operates a world-class international port, we found that this project to be an excellent business opportunity that serves the best interests of the Port and the City.”
The Harbor Commission vote preceded a similar decision the following day by the Long Beach City Council. By acting first, the Port cleared the way for the City to leverage the financial strength of the Harbor Department and pursue a public-private partnership with the developer. With the Port’s participation, the cost of a meeting chamber could be shared for City Council and Harbor Commission meetings.
Initial estimates put the project cost at $358 million. Negotiations between the Port and the City with PECP to finalize the terms of the project are expected to take about six months. If all goes according to plan, construction would begin in 2016 and the new civic center would open in 2019.
The Port and the City plan to finance their projects separately.
The City’s public-private-partnership approach mirrors the path the State of California took to develop the Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse, which opened in 2013. PECP’s partners include Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate, a wholly owned subsidiary of Clark Construction Group LLC. Both Edgemoor and Clark were part of the team that built the new courthouse, which has won multiple awards for its design and project execution.
As a revenue-generating department of the city, the Harbor Department has greater flexibility in determining how it will pay for a new Port headquarters, which accounts for $179 million of the project. The Port is midway through a 10-year, $4 billion capital improvement budget that includes $200 million for a new headquarters. Port officials are evaluating options that include maximizing Port dollars through bond financing. Other details still to be determined include how best to incorporate parking and who will be responsible for maintaining the structure.
The Board acted on recommendations from Port staff and its own subcommittee, made up of Commissioners Lori Ann Farrell and Lou Anne Bynum.
Seismic deficiencies at its former headquarters prompted the Port to move its administrative offices to their current location near the Long Beach Airport. From the outset, the move was considered temporary while the Port explored options for returning to downtown Long Beach. Similar safety issues at City Hall and the Main Library prompted the City to look at building a new civic center, including a complex that would address its needs in combination with those of the Port.