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Long Beach Building Gets New Life : Turn-of-Century Six-Story Structure Being Restored

September 13, 1987|TERENCE M. GREEN | Special to The Times: Green is a retired Times Staff Writer

A recent visitor to downtown Long Beach looked around at the towering new skyscrapers, new low- and mid-rise office buildings, restored and refurbished older buildings, and asked plaintively:

"When all this prettying-up is done, where will they go to make the 1930s gangster movies?"

Good question. There is a lot of prettying-up going on. There have been a few casualties, but for the most part, worthwhile old buildings are being put back on the active list for the next two or three generations.

One project, at just about mid-point, has two unusual aspects: It includes one of the most extensive uses yet of an innovative way of strengthening unreinforced masonry walls against earthquake shocks, and it will restore the "village clock," a landmark nearly a century old.

The three-story 115 Pine Avenue Building was finished in 1896, and was enlarged and raised to six stories in 1906.

Reinforced Masonry

The $11-million restoration of the 70,000-square-foot building is a project of Pine Avenue Limited Partnership, headed by Larry Agajanian, who has been involved in the rehabilitation of several smaller commercial and apartment buildings in Long Beach. Completion is scheduled for December.

From an engineering standpoint, the most interesting aspect is the way the walls, six stories of unreinforced brick, are being brought up to seismic code. Twenty-three inches thick at the base, they taper to 13 inches at the top.

Holes six inches in diameter are being drilled straight down through the walls to the foundation and heavy steel reinforcing bars inserted. The holes will be filled with a mixture of polyester and sand that will harden and bond the reinforcing bars to the bricks.

The reinforcing system was designed by David C. Breiholz & Co. of Long Beach, whose principal, David Breiholz, said he developed the system with former Long Beach building official Ed O'Connor and Prof. Joe Tlecnik of California State University, Long Beach under a National Science Foundation grant in the early 1980s.

Carved Wooden Doors

Following designs by Lionel Ramirez of Long Beach-based Ramirez Design Associates, based on old photographs and other sources, artisans will install white Carrera marble, hang carved wooden doors with beveled-glass inserts and re-create the original ornamental plaster decorative work. Antique light fixtures will be supplemented by modern fluorescent lighting hidden behind the re-created crown moldings.

The rehabilitation contractor is Davcon Inc., Tustin.

Matlow-Kennedy Corp., Torrance, exclusive marketing agent, has leased the top five floors and the basement to All American Sports Club Inc., operator of retail sports equipment stores in Southern California. The ground-floor space is suitable for a restaurant, financial institution, stores or offices.

When the original building was largely torn down, extended to the north and rebuilt to six stories in 1906, a new clock tower was constructed. It is probable that the present clock mechanism--built by the Seth Thomas firm--dates from that time.

With one exception the clock mechanism is original. Late in 1973 the 2,000-pound driving weight broke loose and crashed through the roof into the office directly below--fortunately, at a time the room was unoccupied. The clock was converted to electricity early in 1974. It will continue to give the time to downtown Long Beach.

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