City council members, employees and nearly 2,000 guests gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the new city hall, civic center and Port of Long Beach headquarters, Monday.
The celebration began at 6 p.m. with speeches from officials about the $533 million project that took three years to complete.
Among those who spoke were Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, City Manager Patrick West and former Mayor Bob Foster, whom the new civic center is named after.
“This is the place where our city council will make laws that will keep us safe, and it will ensure that we take care of our vulnerable neighbors,” Garcia said during his speech. “This will also be a location where people will come and exercise their right to free speech, to protest, to encourage and most importantly, to come together and build a better Long Beach.”
The crowd cheered as they watched city officials hoist the flags to the top of the flagpoles bordering West Broadway Avenue.
“I think the most beneficial thing is sharing the resources that we have,” said Semira Araya, an employee of Long Beach economic development department. “We have been talking to local businesses, residents and students about our resources and sharing these resources with our local residents.”
The 11-story building is 247,000 square feet, complete with solar panels and 900 office spaces. City hall and Bob Foster Civic Center are located at 411 W. Ocean Blvd.
During the event, hundreds of guests piled into the elevator to get a first glimpse of the building, despite being limited to the second floor.
The new 238,000 square-foot port headquarters building also officially opened the same day, and guests at the building were also allowed to take a self-guided tour. The new building has 400 office spaces. The Port of Long Beach Headquarters is located at 415 W. Ocean Blvd.
“2005 is when we got notified that the building was seismically unsafe. So we started doing a lot of downtown planning. I would say 2013 is when it kicked into gear,” West said.
Construction began after questions were raised about the safety of 42-year-old city hall. The city council voted to move forward with the construction of a new city hall and civic center in 2015
City officials partnered with Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners for the $533 million projects.
“We couldn’t be happier, because the big deal for us [is] nobody wanted to do a parcel tax or a bond or anything with taxes, so we did this without raising taxes without assessment,” West said.
A statement on the Long Beach City website states the old city hall that is now closed will be transferred to Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners so they can privately develop the land for a potential mixed-use residential space, a retail center or a hotel.
“The old building has much history to it, so I will always miss that, but we are not going to miss the leaky roofs,” Garcia said. “It had a lot of problems, and it had its charm, but we are happy to be in the new building.”