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Design Notes

City Gets Exhibit Center Finalists

July 13, 1986|JANET NAIRN

Recommendations for the architect and construction manager for the expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center--a project that will have a major impact on this city during the next decade--have been forwarded by the city's Convention and Exhibition Center Authority to the mayor and City Council for review.

The authority has recommended that the joint-venture team of Gruen Associates/I.M. Pei and Partners be awarded the architectural contract and that the joint-venture team of Fluor/McKee, in association with Leo A. Daly, become the construction manager. Each recommendation will be considered separately.

The final Environmental Impact Report must also be approved by the mayor and City Council. In fact, without its passage, no other contracts can be awarded, nor can the site be purchased. The expansion program will affect a 35-acre site adjacent to the existing downtown convention center and involves the removal and relocation of about 1,500 residents and many businesses.

The convention program will add nearly 1 million square feet of floor space, including a new, 375,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 40 meeting rooms and banquet, parking and support facilities. Expected to be completed in early 1991, the total project cost is estimated at $350 million.

The first step in the City Council process is review of the architects' qualifications by two committees, Industry and Economic Development and Finance and Revenue.

According to Bernard Evans, deputy to Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who chairs the Industry and Economic Development Committee, "The authority's architect recommendation was officially referred to the two committees last Tuesday. Formal meetings will soon be held."

These committees' recommendations will be forwarded to the City Council for a vote.

Serving with Flores are committee members Gilbert V. Lindsay, in whose district the convention center is located, and Pat Russell, president of the City Council.

The finance committee is chaired by Zev Yaroslavsky, with Joy Picus and David Cunningham as members.

The process for such a project is, obviously, lengthy and complicated. Since 1979, a series of detailed studies have been carried out. The latest was in 1985, by the accounting firm of Touche Ross & Co., with the Luckman Partnership Inc. as a consultant to prepare a financial and construction feasibility study. Luckman was the architect for the convention center.

Last March, the convention authority invited architects and construction firms to submit their qualifications.

Of the original 17 architect entrants, seven-joint venture teams were selected for closer review. After interviews, two finalists were announced: Hellmuth Obata and Kassabaum/Archiplan, and Gruen/Pei. Following the final interview, the Gruen/Pei team was unanimously selected.

The identical process was followed for selecting the construction manager. From a field of 15 entrants, the field was eventually narrowed to three firms--Fluor/McKee/Daly, CRS/Sirrine, and Turner Construction Co.--with the Fluor team selected.

The authority is composed of 15 citizen members, 10 appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council, and five appointed by the county Board of Supervisors.

Because of the project's importance, City Council members will be very active in the approval process.

In setting up the selection process, concern was expressed that a local architect be selected.

While the authority's intent was not to limit the selection process to local architects, its statement of qualifications outlines that the architect's office must be located within 50 miles of the facility, or that the architect be willing to open such an office, and that 75% of the work must be performed in it.

Gruen Associates has been based in Los Angeles for 40 years, and I. M. Pei & Partners is headquartered in New York City.

In a separate issue, the construction manager recommendation may be in question, as a result of the City Council's passage July 2 of a broadened anti-apartheid policy.

Rick Maslin, spokesman for Fluor, headquartered in Irvine, acknowledged that "Fluor Corp. has an engineering services office in South Africa, from which revenues are less than 1% of the corporation . . . . Fluor Constructors Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary, which has no direct interests in South Africa, is the firm recommended for the convention center project."

City Council action is expected on the architect's selection by the end of this month.

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