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Long Beach gets a municipal marvel

Building Team Awards

Long Beach gets a municipal marvel

The Long Beach Civic Center is honored with a Bronze Award in the 2020 Building Team Awards.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | November 2, 2020
Port of Long Beach Headquarters

This project was North American’s first design-build-finance-operate-maintenance contract, and the first to combine public infrastructure and private development. All Photos: Fukishima Photography.

This project encompasses a new City Hall and civic chambers, a new headquarters for the Port of Long Beach, and a public library. It replaced a maintenance-plagued and seismically unsafe building with a multifaceted development that is expected to play a seminal role in revitalizing Long Beach’s downtown.

The new Civic Center, which is divided into four structures that stretch across six city blocks, registered a number of firsts: It was the largest municipal public-private partnership in the U.S., and the first municipal project in North America that was design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM). It was also the first to combine infrastructure and private development within a single project.

The Civic Center was designed to performance-based criteria that exceed the California Building Code. The new building can be utilized within seven days of a significant seismic event and be fully functional within 30 days.


Long Beach civic center photovoltaic panelsRooftop photovoltaic panels are among the building’s sustainable elements. The building targeted LEED Gold certification.


The Building Team and its client strove to achieve several goals. They wanted a building that would exude civic gravitas and at the same time provide the best value for taxpayers. The building had to energize the immediate downtown community. A grid with a regional bike network, buses, and Metro Blue Line would accentuate the connection between the Civic Center district and the downtown area.

The Civic Center’s design embraced the nine guiding principles in Long Beach’s Downtown Plan. It was also influenced by more than 100 community meetings, information sessions, and design charrettes.

Colocating the principal design and construction team members on site with major subcontractors, while key decision makers for the client were located across the plaza in the old City Hall, was critical to the success of the project. Further contributing to this project’s efficiency was the design-build team’s transition to a digital-platform-only construction document approach.

Efficiency was also evinced in offsite prefabrication of more than 330,000 sf of unitized curtain wall, whose 3,362 panels were assembled on-site in only six months—less than half the time of traditional erection methods. The team’s innovative approach to the system’s fabrication and installation saved the City of Long Beach nearly $1 million.

All told, the Building Team delivered the new Civic Centers two days ahead of schedule. Construction entailed 1.8 million worker hours, with zero lost time incidents. The project’s recordable incident rate of 0.22 was far below the 3.10 national average.


Library Terrace in Long BeachStructural timbers at the Library building showcase an aesthetically pleasing and operationally efficient design solution.


The finished product is distinguished by floor-to-ceiling windows on every level that allow light into the building’s core. Its library features exposed structural timbers that support the building and serve as a final finish surface. This strategic use of highlighting exposed structures provided the most effective first cost installation, as well as the most advantageous long-term lifecycle maintenance and replacement costs.

The new City Hall is expected to consume 25% of the energy of the structure it replaces. This project, which targeted LEED Gold certification, includes a rooftop photovoltaic array.

The Civic Center also showcases the latest operational technology. For example, the Port and City Hall are equipped with high-tech, low-voltage systems that include automated security entrances, high-speed data cabling to every workstation, and high-end audiovisual networks.


Submitting firm and GC: Clark Construction Group 
Owner: City of Long Beach
Developer: Plenary Properties Long Beach
Co-developer: Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
MEP Engineer: Syska Hennessy
Structural Engineer: SOM Structural, Nabih Youssef Associates
CM: City of Long Beach
Size: 595,500 sf 
Construction time: July 2016 to June 2019
Cost: $557 million
Delivery method: Design-Build
Photo credit: Fukishima Photography

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