Heart of the City
Civitas with design partner Fentress Architects and development partners Lend Lease Investments, Macquarie Capital Group and Mar Ventures, were finalists for the international design and delivery competition to re-generate the Long Beach Civic Center which in its current condition can be characterized as an impenetrable super-block that that supports local government, the Public Library, parking facilities, a plaza and the Public Safety function for the City of Long Beach. Although, rich with civic uses, the physical design is brutal and creates an environment that is internalized and barricaded from the adjacent city fabric which promotes homeless encampment and discomfort rather than a strong sense of community, vitality and Civic pride.
For the new Long Beach Civic Center to truly become the heart of the city that attracts people 18 hours a day the Fentress/ Civitas design team’s first order of business was to completely flip the plan ‘inside out’ to connect and become one with its adjacent neighborhoods. Second, was to envision the Civic Center as not only a place to renew your driver’s license, or attend a court proceeding or to return a library book but it must also become a vibrant destination for live/work/play, community events, shopping and entertainment. Third, the urban design for the Long Beach Civic Center must be unique to Long Beach, express its diverse culture and become a destination that attracts both local and visitors simultaneously. Long Beach is one of the world’s largest and busiest sea ports which makes it incredibly connected and worldly with physical attributes such as Long Beach itself that position the City to become one of our nation’s finest waterfront cities.
The design for the new Civic Center is anchored by a new urban ‘complete street’ (First Street) that offers over 300 residential units targeted toward dense urban living, shopping, restaurants, an organic neighborhood grocery store and inventive ‘maker’ type work spaces to attract creative energetic entrepreneurs. First Street is also designed to become home to branch academic facilities of both Long Beach State University and Long Beach Community College which is intended to integrate the bright budding talent of Long Beach into the established social fabric of the Long Beach community and work force. First Street itself is anchored on one end by the new City Hall tower and the Port of Long Beach office Tower both iconic pieces of southern California architecture and a new world class destination park on the other end which will become home to the new long Beach Public Library. The urban plan also features a 12 story boutique hotel that fronts the park, and will treat both residents of Long Beach and Tourists to park experiences such as; the ‘Coastal Gardens’ which celebrate the flora of the southern California coast, The culture walk which tells the story of long Beach and its shipping history, an event lawn which will support the many public events that bring the community together, a grand scale and interactive water feature that celebrates the relationship the city has to its most precious resource, ‘water’, an adventure play environment made from shipping containers that will attract kids and adults of all ages to play, engage and learn, a community garden that allows the community to garden together and a rooftop viewing perch to enjoy distant views of the ocean and the city skyline.