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Library Board Abandons Deal to Use Former Store as an Interim Site

October 28, 1987|TED THACKREY Jr. | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Board of Library Commissioners voted Tuesday night to back out of its proposed deal to lease the old Bullocks building at Broadway and 7th Street as a temporary Central Library, and ordered its staff to start looking for a new site at once.

A spokesman for the board said escalating costs and delays had led the board to withdraw from an agreement to lease the former department store from the Los Angeles United Investment Co. until 1992--when the fire-ravaged Central Library is expected to reopen at its original site.

Library commissioners originally agreed to pay $9 million to lease the Bullocks site for the 4 1/2 years it is expected to take to rebuild and expand the original Central Library structure, which was destroyed by fires last year.

But after the lease was signed, contractors discovered that considerable work would be required to bring the former store--actually two buildings, one fronting on Broadway and the other on Hill Street--up to seismic code and safeguard it from fire.

These costs, the board spokesman said, forced the owners to raise the lease price to $14.8 million--and, even more important, to advance the initial occupancy date by at least 14 months.

The board spokesman said that was just too long to wait.

At the Tuesday night meeting, commissioners directed the library staff to "move expeditiously" to find a site--at least 250,000 square feet in the downtown area--to house the library's public service departments, their collections and support services, and submit recommendations to the board "at the earliest date."

"Establishment of a temporary Central Library facility," the commission said in a unanimous resolution, "is of the highest priority for the City of Los Angeles to provide public services from its unique collections until the expanded and rehabilitated Central Library can reopen."

During the April 29, 1986, and Sept. 3, 1986, fires at the main library, many volumes were damaged by fire, smoke and water, and it was suggested that any new site be equipped with a highly refined air conditioning system needed to protect the many damaged volumes.

The Los Angeles City Council last month agreed to go ahead with the proposed $147.5-million reconstruction of the main library.

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