Planned for more than a decade, a project to construct a new north Long Beach library– anticipated as the “largest branch library” in the city and an “anchor” for the community– will begin in late spring next year, city officials said.
The library will be built on the site of the abandoned, historic Atlantic Theater, which for more than 70 years has been a local landmark with its tall spire on the 5800 block of Atlantic Avenue.
Seyed Jalali, project officer for the Long Beach Development Services Department, said the theater will be torn down in late January to make way for the public facility. Ninth District City Councilmember Steven Neal is sponsoring an event on Jan. 25 to herald the launch of the long-awaited project, after which work on tearing down the theater will commence.
The more than $16-million project is continuing after the State Department of Finance gave its stamp of approval in April this year that a $16-million bond issued in 2010 by the City’s former redevelopment agency to fund the library’s construction was an enforceable obligation under the State’s redevelopment-dissolution law.
“I’m very glad that it’s moving forward,” said Glenda Williams, director of the Long Beach public library system. “This community has been wanting this library for about the last 10 to 12 years. It’s getting so close. I’m very happy that we’ll be able to provide library services for that part of the community that really needs it.”
At 24,500 square feet, the new library is expected to be the largest in the city and the newest branch in the north Long Beach area, which currently only has the North Neighborhood Library on Orange Avenue that was built in 1951, she said.
Most libraries in Long Beach are about 7,000 square feet and were first built in the 1950s, outside of the Main Library in downtown Long Beach that was constructed in 1977, Williams said. Currently, the newest and largest library in the city is the 16,000-square foot Mark Twain Neighborhood Library on Anaheim Street that opened in August 2007.
“The new north library will be the largest branch library in the system,” Williams said.
The new facility, just blocks from local schools including Jordan High School, will have space for 70,000 print titles and media as well as three community-meeting area that the public will be able to rent out, she said. The library will also include a 3,800 square-foot community center, an outdoor patio and space for public art.
The structure is also expected to have 48 computers, including those designed for people with disabilities, and Wi-Fi capabilities. Williams said Long Beach public library currently has downloadable e-books, audio books and music as well as online subscription databases that are all available at the 12 library locations in the city.
Jalali said demolition of the historic theater, which was built in the early 1940s, will likely take about four to five weeks and is being funded by about $300,000 in federal community development block grant funds. He said the City plans to preserve various historical artifacts of the theater by incorporating them into the new library.
Certain elements of the historic Art Deco-style theater, including the spire, which resembles the famous RKO-Radio Pictures trademark, will be incorporated in the new library that has been designed by LPA, Inc., Jalali said.
Local historic-building preservationists fought to save the now condemned and seismically outdated theater, which is a remnant of the golden era of “movie palaces.” The theater was designed by prominent Los Angeles architect Carl Boller and built by the Stivers Brothers, according to historical references. The theater has been closed and vacant since the 1970s.
Jalali noted that the diamond at the top of the tower is in “a good condition” but the tower itself is in “a very poor condition.” Other pieces of the theater building, including the terrazzo floors and a fountain, will likely be put in an on-site display area, Jalali said.
As far as the theater’s seats, he said they were transported to the Expo Building in Bixby Knolls. Though the seats got wet during a roof leak when it rained, Jalali said they are still in “pretty good condition” and will be incorporated into the Expo’s rehabilitation and may be used as seating for a teenage center at the new library.
Jalali said he expects construction of the new library to take about 18 to 24 months to complete and work will start shortly after the City Council awards a contractor. He said all bids for the project should be in by April.
Once completed, city officials expect the new north library to be a “focal point” for new developments in the community and the North Village business district.
Jalali added, “This project will serve as a major catalyst and anchor for future development opportunities in the Uptown area.” ß