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New courthouse in Long Beach is topped out

May 06, 2012|By Roger Vincent
  • Workers autograph the last beam at the new courthouse.
Workers autograph the last beam at the new courthouse. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

Construction of the Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse reached a milestone last week when workers placed the last beam of the $490-million structure in downtown Long Beach.

The new building, which is set to open on Magnolia Avenue in fall 2013, will replace the nearby Long Beach Courthouse that was completed in 1959 and is considered overcrowded and obsolete.

The five-story Deukmejian building will house 31 courtrooms, as well as Superior Court administration quarters, Los Angeles County justice agencies, offices leased to the county Probation Department, a food court and a convenience store.

Long Beach Courthouse is plagued by worn-down mechanical systems including escalators and elevators, and might sustain considerable damage in an earthquake, said Clifford W. Ham, principal architect for the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

"It has deteriorated physically," Ham said.

Security there is also a challenge because in-custody defendants have to be escorted through public corridors. Jurors and visitors often have to stand in long lines that extend outdoors as they wait to pass through scanner checkpoints.

The new building will have a large atrium housing multiple checkpoints. Overhead, pedestrian bridges will allow county justice agency staff to move quickly to and from the courtrooms. Defendants in custody will move through separate channels from an underground holding area.

The Deukmejian courthouse will be the first in the United States to be built under a new public-private partnership system meant to take advantage of the private sector’s access to financing, technological expertise and management efficiency.

A limited liability corporation called Long Beach Judicial Partners is erecting the 545,000-square-foot complex and will operate and maintain it for 35 years, said Steve Reinstein, chief executive of Long Beach Judicial Partners.  

During that time, the state will make $50-million annual payments that include mortgage, maintenance and operational costs.

"They own the building from Day One," Reinstein said, but Long Beach Judicial Partners will hold the mortgage. In 2048, the state will take full control.

The Long Beach Courthouse team was organized by Meridiam Infrastructure North America, a long-term equity fund based in New York.

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