Member Spotlight

Long Beach Civic Center Project

Design-Build team on track with massive P3 project that is transforming port city’s downtown.

Project Glance - LB Civic CenterStretching over three city blocks in the heart of downtown Long Beach, the much-anticipated new Long Beach Civic Center is rapidly coming to life. 

AGC-member contractor Clark Construction Group was approximately 65% complete (as of March) with the first phase of the megaproject, which sits just a short distance from the existing city hall that it will replace. The location offers city officials a birds-eye view of the daily progress being made on one of the largest public-private partnerships (P3) of its kind in the Western U.S. 

Clark is the design-build contractor on a team with architect Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP and other members (see box). The $400-million phase one contract, slated for completion in mid-2019, includes two 11-story towers (a 274,000-sq.-ft. new city hall, and a 237,000-sq.-ft. Port of Long Beach headquarters building), a 92,000-sq.-ft. Main Library, and new below-grade parking facilities. The existing city hall and old library will then be demolished and a new Lincoln Park built in its place. A mixed-use private development phase to follow will add residential units, retail and office space and possibly a new hotel. 

Leveraging the Power of Private Funding 

The new Long Beach Civic Center project has generated plenty of excitement since the city and port decided to leverage the power of private investment to deliver the public project via a P3 procurement. That decision came on the heels of the highly successful Long Beach Courthouse project, an award-winning P3 project also delivered by Clark Construction Group and its development entity, Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, in 2013 for the California Administrative Office of the Courts.  

The P3 delivery model allows for critical infrastructure projects to come to life years ahead of traditional methods. This is a key advantage of the P3 process and shifts the risk for much-needed projects from the public to the private sector.

The owners selected the development consortium of Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners (including Plenary, Edgemoor, and maintenance partner Johnson Controls) for the new Civic Center complex. Under the P3 agreement, the private developer will design, finance, build, operate and maintain the new civic center for 40 years. The City of Long Beach will pay a lease payment over that time, while the Port will pay its portion upon project delivery.

Transforming Downtown Long Beach

As the new centerpiece of downtown Long Beach, the civic center project continues the transformation that this booming Southern California port city has undergone in recent years as ongoing development has redrawn its urban landscape.

The project’s design creates a more accessible civic center area by reopening two streets to auto traffic that had been cut off since the 1970s, when the existing government campus was built. First Street will bisect the complex as a pedestrian walkway and plaza. The final mixed-use phase of the project will remove the existing city hall and replace it with a variety of amenities including retail, restaurants and high-rise residential, all designed to make the entire public/private complex a downtown destination.

Designed and built above code to ensure a high level of seismic resiliency, the project is targeting LEED Gold status. A “business continuity objective” that is built into the contract aims to ensure the primary structures maintain a high level of functionality following an earthquake. Backed by a rigorous engineering approach that analyzes how the building would perform in a seismic event, the measure is relatively new to the institutional project marketplace, according to Marc Kersey, Senior Vice President with Clark and the executive in charge of design/construction on the Long Beach Civic Center project. “We’ll likely see more of that in the P3 arena [in the future] where building owners are looking for assurance that their buildings will perform beyond just a code compliant building,” he said. 

Fast Track Design-Build Delivery

Clark Construction officially broke ground on the new Civic Center project in June of 2016, just five months after design had gotten underway. The project’s integrated delivery model has helped fast track the job, which officially topped out in February 2018. 

“With design-build P3 procurement you can literally hit the ground running,” said Kersey. “We took full advantage of being able to fast track design to construction.” 
The project team was also able to save time during the excavation phase by delivering roughly 140,000 cubic yards of material excavated from the site to the Port of Long Beach just a few blocks away, rather than off-hauling it to a more distant location as originally planned. The Port’s ability to reuse the material represented a “win-win” for both the project and the Port, Kersey noted, helping push the project approximately three months ahead of schedule. 

Collaborative Approach Helps Mitigate Challenges

A high level of collaboration among all team members has also contributed to the project’s success to date, according to Kersey, with key staff from multiple firms collectively housed in a large trailer complex right beside the existing city hall. 

“Whenever there is an obstacle or challenge everyone is motivated to solve it for the best interest of the project,” he said. “It’s been a very good client group of the port and the city, and everyone shares the same collaborative mindset. It makes you confident that even when obstacles and issues come up we can overcome them together as a team.”
That collaborative approach has been critical to help work through challenges that naturally accompany a project of this magnitude. Among the major hurdles: satisfying myriad project and design considerations from multiple project stakeholders, end-users and community groups, and meeting the workforce needs on this largescale project in the face of a highly saturated construction market. Given the number of high profile jobs that are currently underway in the Southern California region – the Rams/Chargers stadium in Inglewood, ongoing work at LAX and various high-rise residential projects, to name a few – the ability to adequately staff the job as well as meet local hiring goals has been a key success, Kersey said.

“Roughly 12 percent of our workforce is right here from Long Beach proper,” he noted. “The objective is to get more than that where possible. It is a time of high demand in construction trades with many opportunities to choose from.” Governed by a Project Labor Agreement, the project is expected to support around 4,000 total construction jobs from start to finish, with an estimated 450 workers on site at peak construction.

Delivering a Safe, Successful Project

During the official topping out of the twin high-rise buildings this February, the City of Long Beach mayor, city manager and a host of other city and port officials joined together to celebrate the progress on the structures that will soon house numerous city and port employees. The anticipation over the project’s completion in about a year has been tangible as the buildings have come out of the ground and rapidly filled the skyline. “At the topping out event everyone was just really thrilled about how it’s coming along,” Kersey said. 

Now two-thirds complete, the new Long Beach Civic Center project has already been hailed as a model for future P3 institutional projects in other regions of the country.  

“With each passing week as everyone can see the buildings take shape the excitement just continues to increase,” Kersey added. “The project is tracking ahead of schedule and on budget, the quality has been very good and we’ve worked close to 700,000 hours without a single lost time incident.”

Photo credits: Clark Construction Group, LLP