Pasadena council awards design contract for Central Library retrofit

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California Construction News staff writer

The City of Pasadena has selected Gruen Associates to design the retrofitting and renovating of the Pasadena Central Library. The contract includes preparation of environmental documentation, final construction drawings and cost estimates for construction for a maximum cost of $6.1 million, which includes a base contract amount of $5.8 million and a contingency of $325,000.

The environmental and design phase efforts are underway and expected to be completed in about two years. This phase will also allow the city to determine the estimated total cost of the work to be done and will include an advisory review of the retrofit design alternatives by the technical oversight committee, historic preservation commission, and the public safety committee.

An assessment of the building’s condition and its various systems was completed in 2020, including a general assessment of the mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and roof and design of a new fire alarm and fire sprinkler system. The inspection showed the building consists of an unreinforced masonry structure with walls that are not fastened to the foundation nor to the reinforced concrete floor beams and the timber roof they support.

A preliminary structural analysis of the building completed in April 2021 revealed that the building does not meet the recommended structural performance objectives in a seismic event.

In May 2021, the library was closed for a required seismic retrofit and restoration to meet life safety requirements and  the state approved $4 million in its budget to be used to pay for the design and drawings for the seismic upgrades of Central Library. A year later, the state approved an additional $5 million dollars for the Central Library Retrofit Project, with the support of Assemblymember Holden.

In November 2021, the Department of Public Works issued a request for proposals for the preparation of the environmental document and architectural and engineering design services for the seismic retrofit. A competitive process was initiated to identify the best-qualified design team made up of experienced engineers, architects and historic preservation specialists who ultimately recommended Gruen Associates.

In October 2022, Mayor Victor Gordo appointed a technical oversight committee to review key findings and recommend design solutions at key milestones, as well as provide feedback to the project team and updates to city council. Committee members included professionals and educators with backgrounds in architecture, structural engineering, seismology, and historic preservation, including Pasadena Heritage, Caltech, American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Findings were presented Dec. 14, 2022.

Upon review of the retrofit design alternatives by the Technical Oversight Committee, Historic Preservation Commission, and the Public Safety Committee, public works staff will return to City Council in fall 2023 with a recommendation to approve a specific retrofit design.

Concurrent with design efforts, the city will continue to pursue funding opportunities for the construction phase of the project with the goal of securing all funding by the completion of the design phase. Pending appropriation of funds, construction is anticipated to begin in summer 2025 and last approximately 30 to 36 months.

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