LONG BEACH — Prodded by the Cultural Heritage Committee, city planning commissioners have taken steps to ensure that a few pieces of the doomed Jergins Trust Building will be saved.
Plans approved by the Planning Commission on Thursday stipulate that Depression-era WPA murals, pieces of a colorful terra cotta roof parapet and other bits of beauty from the historic building will either be incorporated in the 21-story high-rise hotel that will replace it, or donated to the city.
The items were identified last year in a city report about the environmental impact of tearing down the building. Project spokesman Tom Welch, who represents Perini Land Co. and Glenborough Development Co., had previously told the commission that the antiques would be salvaged. Action by the Planning Commission gives the city the legal authority to make sure that happens.
Welch said hotel plans call for a conference room that would showcase oak and walnut paneling and a marble mantelpiece that will be salvaged from the penthouse offices of the Jergins building.
Even with the stipulation, preservationists and commissioners fretted that they are powerless to do more to save the 55-year-old building, or at least ensure that it would be replaced by another showpiece. Welch told the commission that no hotel operator has been selected and no financing has been finalized for the $54-million project.
"What you're telling us, then, is that you could tear down this building and have a vacant lot there forever," said Commissioner Jack Jacobs, who usually supports downtown development. Demolition is expected to begin by Sept. 7, the expiration date of the city-issued demolition permit.
Staff to OK Details
The Planning Commission's unanimous approval sets only the major outline for the project. More detailed elements, including the designs of the lobby, the the main entrance off Ocean Boulevard, and a plaza in front of the hotel will be decided by city staff, said Robert Paternoster, planning director. Any major changes would have to be resubmitted to the Planning Commission, he said.
The plan calls for the 470-room hotel to front on Ocean Boulevard. The plaza in front of it will blend in with the Crocker Bank Plaza to the east and provide pedestrian access to the hotel. Cars will enter a 330-space subterranean parking lot from Pine Avenue. After business hours, customers could also park in the nearby IDM parking structure, under a shared parking arrangement.
Preservationists scored a more complete, but quieter victory, when the Planning Commission recommended that the City Council approve designation of the nearby Masonic Temple as a local historical landmark. Restored local landmarks need only meet the city Historic Building Code, which is more flexible than the code that governs new buildings, Ikerd said.
The temple, which is owned by Lloyd Ikerd, a local real estate broker and developer, has also been nominated for the National Registry of Historic Places.
Ikerd said he plans to restore the 1903 building and turn it into a shopping mall and restaurant. Ikerd has applied for a $380,000 building rehabilitation loan from the city, and has arranged additional financing from Bank of America. He estimates cost of the project at $1.27 million.
The ornate Romanesque temple was one of the first commercial buildings in Long Beach. Said Ikerd: "I wasn't looking for something to develop. But I just couldn't let it go."