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Work Begins on U.S. Office Building in Long Beach

September 13, 1987|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — After years of debate and delay, construction began last week on an eight-story, $49-million federal office building that will house 10 government agencies now scattered throughout Long Beach and the South Bay.

Bulldozers moved onto the one-acre parcel next to the first tower of the World Trade Center on Tuesday, and federal officials formally broke ground at the Ocean Boulevard site on Saturday.

The red-granite and green-glass, 242,000-square-foot building should be ready for occupancy by about 900 workers in January, 1990. Nearly 25% of the space will be used by the Coast Guard and the Internal Revenue Service will move its 50,000-square-foot field office from Carson, officials said.

Others on Tenant List

The FBI, Social Security Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service are also on the tenant list.

Federal officials say the building will be unlike the functional, look-alike government office structures that were built in the 1960s. The building's technology will be sophisticated and its color and design will complement the World Trade Center that will tower above it on the west and north, said federal spokeswoman Mary M. Filippini.

"Basically we were putting up boxes. But now our buildings are getting to a point where they all tend to be pretty unique," she said.

Long Beach congressmen, Glenn M. Anderson, the building's chief congressional proponent, and Daniel E. Lungren, who condemned it as unnecessary, were both in town for the project's kick-off.

Anderson, a Democrat who first proposed the building in 1981 and led the battle for funding in 1985, said the facility will save about $70 million in rent during the next 30 years while making more services available at a single location near the Civic Center.

Would Cut Debt

Lungren, a Republican in whose district the building is located, said he still thinks the national debt should be cut before such projects are built. The General Services Administration had ranked the Long Beach federal building as the last of nine projects in California and 45th among proposals for the Western United States, he said.

City and business officials say the structure should be a boon to the downtown area. And a port spokesman has said it will help assure the success of the World Trade Center, whose first tower is under construction, by bringing trade-related government activities to the trade center block.

The Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration, which will move to the new federal building, handle shipping and trade-related activities.

The U.S. Customs Service also plans to soon move its large regional headquarters from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach, Filippini said.

The Customs Service has been talking with the World Trade Center about leasing up to three floors of the center's 27-story first tower, she said. No contract can be signed until after a bidding process, she said.

Lungren says the advantages of the new federal building have been exaggerated.

Centralized Location

It provides a centralized location for federal services, but most of the services are already at one location across Ocean Boulevard from the World Trade Center, he said.

Indeed, the 157,000-square-foot Union Bank building at 400 Oceangate will be half empty when federal offices move across the street. Departing tenants include the Coast Guard and Maritime Service, which lease 60,000 square feet, the Social Security Administration, U.S. Probation Department, the Department of Agriculture, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Social Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Filippini said.

Other agencies that have reserved space in the new building include the FBI, which is located a few blocks away; the Department of Labor, which will relocate offices from Atlantic Avenue and Terminal Island; the IRS, which will leave its Keegan Street plant in Carson, and the immigration service's Terminal Island office.

The new building is among a handful of "high tech" government prototypes nationwide that will allow linking of computers throughout the building, Filippini said.

It will also have advanced telecommunications and centralized control of building functions, such as heating, cooling and lighting. Its features will include ceiling sensors that would turn out lights when workers are absent and individual cooling of suites during weekends and off hours.

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