Crews slowly demolish the old city hall building in Downtown Long Beach Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The demolition of Long Beach’s old City Hall is slated to be completed in spring 2022, according to city staff—two years later than originally projected when the city partnered with Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners for the development of the new Civic Center.

Under the original agreement, the demolition of the old building was slated for nine months after city and port staff moved into their new digs across the street. The new City Hall and port headquarters officially opened on July 29, 2019, (one month later than originally anticipated) meaning the demolition should have been completed by May 2020.

“We should be further along,” Marilyn Surakus, project management bureau manager for Public Works, said, noting that materials are being meticulously sorted for proper disposal and recycling. “People underestimate how long that’s going to take.”

Money made from recycled materials stays with the developer to offset the cost of disposing of hazardous materials, Surakus added.

Like all construction nationwide for the last 22 months, another cause for delay was the COVID-19 pandemic, Surakus said. If a crew member tests positive for the virus, the demolition site shuts down for 10 days, Surakus said.

“That definitely slows things down,” she said.

The demolition finally got underway earlier this year with asbestos abatement beginning in June. Since then, Signal Hill-based Environmental Construction Group’s crew of more than two dozen workers has gutted the building and begun working their way down removing each level, floor- by-floor.

The roof and penthouse have already been removed, Surakus said. Floors eight through 11 are slated to be removed in January, followed by floors one through seven in February, along with portions of the basement and foundation. The basement and foundation will be fully demolished in March or April.

Soil remediation and shoring is slated to be completed in the spring, Surakus said.

The demolition was put on hold even after city staff moved into the new building, Surakus said, because plans for mixed-use on the site had not been approved. The 580-unit development gained preliminary approval from the Long Beach Planning Commission in March 2020 but within months, the contractor—Irving, Texas-based JPI Development—pulled out of the project.

A rendering of the Mid-Block development as part of the Civic Center project. Rendering courtesy of the city of Long Beach.

“When this agreement all started in 2013, it was anticipated that we would have a developer and they’d just be … super eager to start building,” Surakus said of the city’s public-private partnership with Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners for the development of the Civic Center. “Unfortunately, that was not the case.”

The site sat, fenced and deserted, for months. However, due to theft of materials such as copper pipes and vandalism, the city decided the demolition had to get underway, contractor or not, Surakus said.

Jeffrey Fullerton, senior vice president of real estate development for Plenary Group, said the plan is to begin construction of the previously approved project shortly after the demolition of the old City Hall is completed. Fullerton did not, however, provide a timeline for the project or comment on the search for a new contractor.

Surakus, for her part, said the city and Plenary-Edgemoor are “circling in” on an agreement with a contractor, adding that she does not think the project is “going to be in limbo for much longer.”

Once construction begins, projects of the scope approved by the Planning Commission typically take about two years to complete, Deputy Director of Long Beach Development Services Christopher Koontz previously told the Business Journal.

The grand opening of the new Lincoln Park, also part of the Civic Center project, is slated for February, Surakus said. Under the original timeline, the park was expected to open in November 2020 after the demolition of the old Main Branch Library.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.