The developer of the Long Beach Civic Center mid-block project—a massive mixed-use development slated for the site of the old city hall building—has pulled out of the project due to economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.


The 580-unit project was supposed to be constructed by Texas-based JPI Development, in partnership with master developer Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners. The development was approved by the Long Beach Planning Commission in March. But COVID-19 struck and the development has lingered in limbo since.


Fortunately for the city and the Civic Partners, the project does not have to start from square one.


“Plenary … is in the process of selecting a new developer that will be building the project under the plans JPI [got] approved,” said Christopher Koontz, deputy director of Long Beach Development Services.


Neither JPI nor the Civic Partners responded to requests for comment.


The approved-then-delayed proposal, designed by Los Angeles-based TCA Architects, features two eight-story buildings, with 100 units to be under market value, including units set aside for local educators. The proposal also features 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, including a 12,000-square-foot full-service grocery/market on the ground floor.


An earlier iteration of the project designed by LA-based architecture firm SOM featured a much more pronounced design, including a 432-foot tall tower, 800 residential units and 50,000 square feet of commercial space. However, market conditions changed drastically over the last several years resulting in the scaling back of the design, then-acting City Manager Tom Modica said in a March interview.


The mid-block development is part of a public-private partnership between the city and the Civic Partners dating back to 2015. The partnership included the construction of the new city hall and Port of Long Beach headquarters, the Billie Jean King Main Library, a new Lincoln Park and the private mid-block development.


The contract included a detailed timeline for when each phase of the project would be completed. The city hall and port buildings were delivered on time in the summer of last year. The rest of the timeline has not gone so smoothly.


Demolition of the old city hall has not begun—it was slated for completion nine months after the new building was occupied, which was one year ago. Koontz said he hopes the demolition begins before the end of the year but noted it may not start until early 2021. The residential development likely will not be completed until some time in 2023, Koontz added—more than two years later than the original projections.


“It’s a pretty complex project,” Koontz said regarding construction duration. “Based on other projects in the city and how long they’ve taken, I would say 24 months is realistic.”


The new Lincoln Park was originally expected to open in November, an impossible task considering the demolition of the old library, the site of the new park, started months later than anticipated. A massive hole in the ground has now replaced the former library, with surface-level construction expected to begin in October, Koontz said. The opening of the new Lincoln Park is expected in fall 2021, according to city staff, about one year later than originally planned.


“The city did have a lot of comments about the park design, so Plenary is working through some issues,” Koontz said. “If it takes us a couple extra months to make sure we got the design perfect for the public, I think that’s a fair trade off.”

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