The Richmond Civic Center Revitalization project recently opened with a media tour and speeches by local officials.

The Richmond Civic Center Revitalization project recently opened with a media tour and speeches by local officials.
Y.K. Cheung Photography
The Richmond Civic Center Revitalization project recently opened with a media tour and speeches by local officials.

The project also recently won the Best of California’s Top Overall Project for 2009 in the Northern California region.

It also took home the Best of California award in the Government/Public category. The awards program is hosted by McGraw-Hill Construction and California Construction Magazine.

After almost six years of design and construction, approximately 300 city of Richmond employees recently returned to work at the newly revitalized Civic Center, one of the first modern civic centers to ever be constructed in the U.S.

Designed by Los Angeles-based Nadel Architects, the $91 million, multiple-phase revitalization project is being led by Richmond Civic Center Partners LLC, a design-build partnership consisting of Los Angeles-based Alliance Property Group and Mission Viejo-based Wasatch Advantage Group, LLC; and implemented by general contractors Charles Pankow Builders, Ltd and C. Overaa & Co. Inc., along with Nadel.

“The revitalization of Richmond Civic Center is one of the most significant historic civic center rehabilitations California has seen in decades,” says Steve Duran, director of the Community & Economic Development Department for the City of Richmond.  “With the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the buildings, we believe the Civic Center pays tribute to the city’s architectural heritage and reestablishes Richmond’s place as a city of the future. The design excellence of this facility has already started showing signs of restoring the entire downtown area to its original glory.”

Now complete, Phase I includes the renovation of three landmark buildings: City Hall, the Hall of Justice and the combination Civic Auditorium/Art Center. Arranged around a striking landscaped plaza, the Civic Center facilities were originally master planned and designed by famed architects Richard Neutra and R.M. Schindler in the late 1930s and executed by San Francisco’s most famous civic architect, Timothy Pflueger. The low, linear forms—from the prominent colonnades that form a band around the plaza to the horizontal brickwork cladding to the slender 65-foot wide City Hall building—reflect the mid-century modern style popularized in the late 1940s and 1950s.

“Our vision for this project was to bring critical city administrative functions back to downtown—which had been relocated offsite for seven years as a result of damage associated with the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake—while also reviving the central business district and honoring the original architecture,” says Michael Walden, director of design for Nadel Architects.

Under Nadel’s design direction, the City Hall, Hall of Justice and Civic Auditorium underwent complete seismic upgrades, exterior envelope rehabilitation, which included replacement of all exterior glazing, stone panels and large portions of the brick exterior using brick that replicates the original cladding, as well as system upgrades and interior renovations. The ground floor of City Hall was expanded by approximately 15,000 sq ft to create a floor similar in size to the upper levels. To recall the “lofting” effect achieved in the original Pflueger design, clear, floor-to-ceiling glass was used, minimizing the disruption to views from both inside and out. Some City Hall functions were transferred to the old Hall of Justice to create a new 440 Civic Center Plaza, which houses community services and includes an additional 56,000 sq ft of space, modernized City Council chambers and its accompanying broadcast facilities for Richmond’s Public Television Station, KCRT.  The City Hall and 440 Civic Center Plaza have been designed to meet all of the criteria for LEED gold certification.

The most significant change to the Civic Center, however, is the two-acre public plaza itself, which has undergone changes in terms of its scale, function and use. The historic brick steps remain, but the expansive “parade-scale” open interior of the plaza has been re-designed to accommodate many more pedestrian uses, with a central water feature and art element, and the introduction of intimately-scaled relaxation areas.

Phase II will include a brand-new, 80,000-square-foot Public Safety Building, planned to achieve LEED platinum. The building will incorporate the police and fire departments, a new central jail and an Emergency Operations Center. Included will be a full-block of public parking, accommodating 400 public parking spaces, plus dedicated, secured parking for over 100 “black-and-white” patrol vehicles. Phase III will bring in mixed-use structures incorporating market-rate and affordable housing, office space and ground level retail along the MacDonald Avenue Corridor. A new library building is also slated for future work.