September 3, 2008
New Courthouse Plans Developing
By John Canalis; Karen Robes Meeks
LONG BEACH - A proposal to tear down the dilapidated Los Angeles County Superior Court in downtown Long Beach and replace it with a new courthouse a few blocks away moved closer to reality Tuesday.
Mayor Bob Foster announced that a state budget committee had agreed to start seeking applications from developers qualified to build a new courthouse on land owned by the city's Redevelopment Agency between Broadway and Third Street, just west of Magnolia Avenue.
The state owns the old Long Beach courthouse on Ocean and, and as part of an agreement still being negotiated, would give that parcel to the city in exchange for the redevelopment land, said Craig Beck, director of development services for Long Beach.
That means the city could develop the land on Ocean for residential, commercial or public purposes, or some combination of uses, Beck said.
How this might play into the discussion about replacing the Main Library and, eventually, the civic center, was unclear Tuesday evening, but the City Council would eventually end up in control of the land on Ocean and could decide its fate.
Key to the negotiations with the state was keeping the courthouse, and the high-paying jobs associated with it, in Long Beach, Foster said.
"This is first in the state of California for a project of this magnitude," Foster said in a prepared statement. "Long Beach has found a unique and creative way to maximize our local dollars and enter into a public-private partnership that will result in a new courthouse for our city."
If the deal progresses as planned, the new courthouse could be completed by 2012.
The old courthouse, built in 1968, would remain open during construction.
Though the state would also own the new court building, Los Angeles County would continue to manage it.
Project cost estimates were not available Tuesday evening.
To move the process forward, the California Joint Legislative Budget Committee agreed to allow the state Administrative Office of the Court, which oversees courts on state land, to enter into a development partnership with the city.
The administrative office, which has been in talks with the city and the Redevelopment Agency for more than a year, is poised to "begin a competitive selection process of soliciting proposals for the design, finance, construction, operation and maintenance of a new facility," according to a statement from City Hall.
The first step in the process is to find qualified developers, however, not ask for proposals and designs for the new courthouse.
"It's the first big hurdle in getting a new courthouse built in Long Beach," Beck said.
After the qualifications are reviewed, the state would select a small number of qualified developers and ask them to submit plans, Beck said.
The city's Redevelopment Agency board would also have to give the OK for the land-swap element of the deal to progress. And the Planning Commission and City Council would have say in how the land on Ocean is developed.
The state has final say over development on its property but the city is negotiating permission to have input in the design process, Beck said.
"Aesthetically, we didn't want to end up with a big, ugly box," Beck said.
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