Long Beach civic center's $900 million makeover a model for other cities
Published 18 February 2018
Extract from LA Times article, Long Beach civic center is getting a $900-million makeover that's a model for other cities, Roger Vincent, 17 February 2018:
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA - Just a few paces from the old City Hall, a new building is rising as part of a nearly $900 million innovative makeover of the public heart of Long Beach that will also introduce apartments, stores, restaurants and perhaps a hotel.
"A city is emerging within a city," said Long Beach administrator Sergio Ramirez, who expects the new neighborhood will draw even more people to a reviving downtown.
The mega center is the largest public-private development of its kind on the West Coast and is expected to serve as a model for other cities in the United States.
Officials from cities including Charlotte, N.C., have visited Long Beach to see the project and learn how it is being financed without raising taxes or biting into the city budget, Ramirez said.
Steering the civic center makeover is Jeffrey Fullerton, project director for developer Plenary-Edgemoor, a partnership of multiple companies contracted by the city in 2014.
The public-private development model is common in the United Kingdom and Canada, he said, and growing in popularity here as cash-strapped governments scramble to fund needed infrastructure such as civic buildings, utilities and roads.
The financial challenges involved can be long term.
"We can usually find the money to build them, but we seem to have trouble finding the money to maintain them," Fullerton said.
Under the agreement, Plenary-Edgemoor will design, finance, build, operate and maintain the new civic center for 40 years. The annual cost to Long Beach will be about the same as it was to operate the old civic center and service its debt — $13.5 million.
The money will come mostly from the city's tax- supported general fund and fees such as filming permits.
"This sets a new standard," Fullerton said, "for elected officials to think creatively and take risks."Plenary-Edgmoor has funded development of the new civic center with private capital, he said, including its own equity and money borrowed from lenders such as large insurance companies and other financial institutions.
The city's annual payments will pay down the debt and cover operating and maintenance costs for the civic center.Plenary-Edgmoor will also be responsible for the costs of the private development to follow using similar conventional sources.
The reinvention of the Long Beach civic center marks a new chapter in the evolution of the city as a resurgent tourist destination, said professor Gary Hytrek of Cal State Long Beach.
"Long Beach has begun to step out of the shadow of Los Angeles," the mayor said.
"We are a big, independent city."
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