Beverly Hills Rejects Bids to Finish Civic Center

Times Staff Writer

The Beverly Hills City Council has rejected all bids to complete the $91-million civic center because a city appeal for donations failed to produce any serious offers.

The council has also agreed to ask the architect to redesign the project without a proposed performing arts center before resubmitting it to bid.

The council's civic center committee said elimination of the arts center would achieve "substantial savings." Committee Chairman George Konheim, a developer, said he would need at least 30 days to determine the exactly how much would be saved.

The council voted 4 to 1 Tuesday night to reject a $55.9-million bid submitted by Hensel Phelps construction Co. of Greeley, Colo. The bid was the lowest of four received for the remaining portion of the project, which calls for the arts center, a police headquarters, an expanded library and plaza.

Hensel Phelps estimated that the arts center would cost $13.7 million.

"We have to look at the project in a fiscally responsive manner," Mayor Edward I. Brown said. "We are $20 million over (budget) and it's time to cut back to assure that the other project components will go ahead."

The first indication that the performing arts center was in jeopardy came last month when the council appealed for a public benefactor to step forward and raise private funds for the project.

At the time, Councilwoman Donna Ellman said she was looking for an "angel" to save the project, which had escalated in cost. "I urge you, if you are out there, now is the time to come forward," she said.

Brown said, however, that the city had not totally given up on the idea of building a performing arts center.

"We don't have to eliminate the performing arts center if the community comes forward and raises the money, but so far we haven't received any firm responses," he said.

The elimination of the arts center could force the city to refinance the project. The project is financed with a $60-million lease-purchase agreement under which bonds were sold to the public in the form of certificates of participation. Because the agreement included a performing arts center at the time the bonds were sold, the city was told by its financial advisers that they might legally be required to refinance the project if the art center is cut.

So far the city has spent more than $17 million on the civic center. A parking lot has been completed north of City Hall. A 563-space garage is expected to finished soon and a temporary Fire Department facility was set up pending completion of a fire headquarters next year.

The City Council became concerned about cost last month when bids for the completion of the the project pushed the final cost above $91 million and there were no assurances that the cost would not go even higher. Earlier this year the cost was estimated at between $80 million and $85 million.

'Our Only Hope'

"I am very pleased that the council is receptive to money-saving ideas," said Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro, an early critic of the center. "It was our only hope of keeping the project within a reasonable cost limit."

Councilman Benjamin Stansbury was the only member on the council to vote against rejecting the bid. "No one knows the total cost or the amount of savings if the performing arts center were removed," he said. He argued that the delay caused by having to re-bid the project could ultimately increase the cost. He also said that the community had indicated its support for an arts center when it indicated its approval of the design plans.

"The community believes that the civic center will be something that they will be involved in. But they are not yet aware of what a change this will cause," he said.

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