The design-build team of Webcor and Perkins and Will recently broke ground on a new Civic Center for Newark, Calif. The $72.3-million complex will house city government, the police department and public library and is the first major redevelopment for the city’s municipal offices in over half a century.

The project, aiming for LEED Silver Certification, is designed to create a cohesive public destination through the careful arrangement of new structures. Entries for all buildings will radiate out from a central plaza which will be used to host community events. The design of the project stems from a careful analysis of the site and its history, say officials. As an homage to the history of Newark, stained-glass artwork from the existing City Hall will be reused at the entry to each of the new buildings.

Webcor and Perkins and Will partnered on the project utilizing design-build. The original schematic design and bridging documents were provided by Heller Manus Architects, the project's design architect responsible for the civic center's design and overall master plan, with Safdie Rabines Architects and McClaren Wilson & Lawrie. The Webcor and Perkins and Will team further developed and refined the design to make the project vision a reality. 

“We want to create a healthy place that can be used and enjoyed by everyone,” said Perkins and Will Principal and Senior Project Manager Sarah Rege in a news release. “Perkins and Will’s design reflects a vision for the Civic Center as a source of community identification and pride for now and the future.”

Matt Rossie, Webcor vice president, told me that by looking at the project with “fresh eyes,” the design-build team was able to step beyond the programming, and look at layout efficiencies, refine the vertical transportation opportunities, standardize building grids and systems, and create systems efficiencies through coordination.

“The buildings specifically seek to address efficient operations and workplace health, and to have strategies in place for addressing the evolving future of technology,” says Rossie.

From a construction standpoint the project is not very challenging, thanks to a relatively robust set of bridging documents that was provided to the design-build teams pursuing the project, says Rossie. The documents were created by three different design teams, “and our first challenge was to bring some level of efficiency and cohesion to the overall design,” he says.  

Rossie says Perkins and Will was able to unify the campus, “creating stronger connections between the City Hall, library and police buildings, and looking holistically at the plaza space connecting those buildings.”

Since the beginning of the project, architects, builders and engineers have been taking advantage of the design-build process, working together on goals to create a streamlined experience for the City of Newark. The delivery method has also allowed the team to start construction a month earlier than planned.

“The City stakeholders are highly collaborative, which further amplified the effectiveness of the design-build team in developing design and construction solutions,” says Rossie. “Of the many benefits realized, the consolidation of the police program into a single building is providing tremendous value to the City. The seasoned design-build team was able to quickly analyze the proposed program and pull together an alternative plan that brings all police services together in the most efficient way possible.”

The new Civic Center will consist of three modern, safe, energy-efficient buildings housing the Council Chambers, administration services, library and police station, including an emergency dispatch center and training facility. A new plaza will serve as a multi-function community event space. Totaling 84,130 total sq-ft, the project is slated for completion in 2021.

The sustainable project will be highlighted by the use of daylighting within the buildings to the greatest extent possible, including daylight access to open office areas and within stairwells.  A second focus is on designing healthy buildings by specifying healthier building products.

“For years, designers at Perkins and Will have facilitated informed decisions by working with clients and manufacturers to find alternatives that use the fewest possible toxic substances,” says Rossie. “The design-build team is working together to analyze material choices and find alternatives to chemicals of concern where possible.”