Last Tuesday the City hosted a ground breaking ceremony for the new 900-space Civic Center parking structure that will be located on Fourth Street, between Olympic Drive and Civic Center Drive, with the entrance off Avenida Mazatlan, directly behind the L.A. County Courthouse. The new structure will contain four stories of above grade parking, rooftop parking and 1-1/2 floors of subterranean parking as well as street-level tenant spaces for either retail or office space. The entire structure will measure 296,000 square feet and the tenant spaces on the main plaza terrace on Olympic Drive and along Fourth Street will have a total area 8,650 square feet. The structure’s facade will contain precast white, ribbed concrete panels. The Fourth Street façade will also contain a series of bays made of channeled colored glass panels. Mayor Pro Tem Herb Katz, an architect, told the crowd of City officials and invited guests, “It’s not easy to do a building like this. I’m pleased we can add 900 parking spaces here in the Civic Center which will actually support the Civic Center and downtown at a time when it’s needed. At a time when we’re going to rehabilitate the downtown parking structures [i.e. earthquake retrofitting] and redo the parking at the Promenade and downtown, this building will be a big asset not only from its design, not only from its use but also from its energy savings.” The building is designed to generate much of its own energy from angled rooftop photovoltaic panels. Council member Richard Bloom echoed Katz’s enthusiasm by stressing that “As a member of the Civic Center Working Group and as Mayor, it was extremely important to push this project forward because it was going to work for so many people. This is the first step in opening up the Civic Center to the people who live in Santa Monica, who work here and to the people who visit our City. We’re looking to remodel or perhaps tear down and start over again Santa Monica Place and there will be connections to the Third Street Promenade so all of Santa Monica will work together as a whole.” James O’Connor, principal architect with Moore, Ruble, Yudell Architects and Planners, explained that, “the great challenge for us was to take something that seems very ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary, something unique. It’s the arrival point for everybody to experience the Civic Center.” He also noted that it was a “symbol of sustainable design.” The City’s proposed Draft Civic Center Specific Plan (DCCSP) includes the new parking structure and the new Public Safety Building, as well as a playing field on the site of the Civic Auditorium parking lot, 325 housing units south of Olympic Drive, a renovated Civic Auditorium, a new childcare facility, a new “city services” building, and a large “town square” in front of City Hall. The proposed plan also calls for ending Main Street south of City Hall and extending Second Street south across Colorado Avenue and over the Santa Monica Freeway on a new bridge into the Civic Center. The City projects that the full implementation of the plan will take at least ten years. The parking structure will open sometime in the early fall of 2006 and will cost $32.5 million. The funding, according to City Finance Director Steve Stark, will come entirely from lease revenue bonds that were all sold to Citicorp. He also noted that “municipal bond interest rates continue to be low” so the City is able to save money on interest payments.
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