Case Study: The Long Beach, California, Civic Center Project
A Public-Private Partnership to Rehabilitate Municipal Infrastructure
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
This case examines the process and mechanics of using the public-private partnership model to invest in local infrastructure in one U.S. city.
In December 2015, Pat West, City Manager for the City of Long Beach, California, was preparing to present to the City Council the final plans, Supplemental Environmental Impact Report, and Project Agreement for the Long Beach Civic Center Project. If approved by City Council, the motion would authorize a $531mm public-private partnership to redevelop a large swath of downtown Long Beach. The project would include a new City Hall, Port of Long Beach headquarters, and main library, and a redeveloped Lincoln Park, in addition to proposed residential and retail buildings. It had been nine years since building inspections found seismic problems and significant deterioration in the city’s existing City Hall, where the City Council meeting was about to take place. Facing an immediate need, and no funding to pay for a new facility, West and his staff had spent years transforming the liability of the decaying Civic Center into an opportunity to reinvest in Downtown Long Beach. But first, West needed the Council’s approval. “No city manager wants to try to build a new City Hall,” said West, “It’s usually the fastest way to get yourself fired.”