Newport could push civic center cost to $140 million

NEWPORT BEACH – City officials are asking the City Council for an extra $6.5 million in finishing the new Civic Center, which was already hotly criticized for its price tag.

City staff members will come to council members Tuesday to approve the extra amount in change orders for the Civic Center project, bringing up the total project cost to $139.9 million, according to a staff report.

Article Tab: People gather at the new civic center as Newport Beach City Councilman Edward Selich gives his remarks during the opening ceremony for the new Newport Beach Civic Center and Park.
People gather at the new civic center as Newport Beach City Councilman Edward Selich gives his remarks during the opening ceremony for the new Newport Beach Civic Center and Park.
What: Newport Beach City Council

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Council Chambers, 100 Civic Center Drive.

Information: 949-644-3309

According to the report prepared by Project Manager Steve Badum, staff is asking the council to increase the project’s contingency fund from $1.6 million to $6.5 million and authorize City Manager Dave Kiff and Badum to negotiate additional project changes in an amount not to exceed $4.8 million.

Staff is also requesting an amendment to the contract with architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to increase the original contract by $579,670 to a revised cost not to exceed $4.9 million. The staff report says there is enough money in the Civic Center’s Capital Project fund to support these increases.

According to the staff report, the civic center and park projects are almost complete and will officially be concluded in July after the final “punch list” items are completed.

Badum says in his report that “despite considerable effort and oversight,” the amount of contract change orders went from the initial goal of 2.5 percent of the total construction cost to about 6 percent.

“Six percent is a much more typical contingency amount for a construction project of this magnitude,” the staff report says, citing 760 changes to the project, most of which come in under $10,000 each.

City officials had previously estimated the cost at about $132 million, but a review of the project documentation by the Orange County Register in April showed that the final project cost was closer to $139 million. A review of city finance documents at the time also showed that the final price tag, factoring in the cost of financing the project over 30 years, could exceed $237 million.

Because of the extra funding that’s being sought, the project’s price tag could increase even more.

Here are some items that have caused the price to escalate, according to the staff report:

•Changes to the San Miguel Pedestrian Bridge design. Instead of a concrete finish for the elevator tower, the council picked a zinc metal clad option. The cost of revising plans and structural dimensions totals $22,675.

•A landscape feature with a coastal live oak and assorted rock boulders will cost $9,960.

•Replacement of leaking library windows, $28,760.

•Additional signage at $11,125.

•Additional travel allowance of up to $69,000 for architects who have had to make more visits to the site “due to the pace of the construction project.”

•Extra architect fees of $315,000 after the city extended the firm’s services to complete the project. Hourly rates remain the same.

•Additional architect expenses from January 2013 to completion date add up to $123,150.

Badum says the entire project is still expected to come in at $139.9 million, but that the final cost will not be known until the project is completed next month. The council will merely take a “budgeting action” Tuesday, he said.

Resident Denys Oberman, who has been critical of what she believes is an “extravagant” project, has already sent in a written objection to council members questioning the rationale for this increase in project costs.

“The city has already committed significant funds and incurred significant debt in connection with the civic center and park project,” she wrote to council members. “There are other initiatives and projects which would provide much greater economic and other public benefit – both to the city and to its constituents.”

Badum says in his report that he recognizes some in the community “remain frustrated with the overall cost of the project.”

“They think the project only involved a city hall building,” he says. “We understand that. … Our hope is that, over time, community members will utilize and enjoy their civic center and see that this was the right investment in the right project at the right time.”

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