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$44.8 Million Added to Cost of Rebuilding L.A. Library

Times Staff Writer

Projected costs of rehabilitating, expanding and equipping the historic Los Angeles Central Library are running $44.8 million over the amount budgeted two years ago for the project, according to a report by the Community Redevelopment Agency.

CRA Administrator John J. Tuite has advised the agency’s commissioners in a memorandum that inflation, along with proposed changes in the project and the inclusion of new items, has pushed the estimated total cost of the library to $161.5 million.

The projected shortfall, estimated last month in a report prepared by architects, suggested the possibility that plans for the library might have to be scaled down, especially since Tuite told CRA commissioners that the agency is standing firm on its original fund commitment.

“In all discussions pertaining to project costs, staff has maintained and will continue to maintain, unless instructed otherwise, that regardless of the current estimates to complete the project, the agency’s total commitment remains $110.4 million in 1984 dollars,” Tuite said.

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But Keith Comrie, the City of Los Angeles’ chief administrative officer, told The Times on Thursday that it is premature to talk about cutting back on the library project. The city has not received the CRA report yet, but plans are to meet with the agency next week, he said.

“I don’t see anything in this to cause speculation of a change in direction,” he said.

Cost overruns are not unusual in big construction projects, especially when rehabilitation is involved, Comrie said. “We always expected cost overruns.” As a matter of fact, he said, the mayor and City Council were notified by his office six months ago that about $20 million in overruns had been identified in the library project.

“We would hope it (the overruns) will not go any further than that ($44.8 million),” Comrie said. “We just have to take a look at it. . . . We may have to request more than $20 million at the end of the project and have it bonded.” The CRA and the city plan to issue bonds to pay for the library, he said.

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The deputy administrator of the CRA, Donald Cosgrove, said he does not think that the cost overruns threaten plans for the library. He said he expects the CRA and the city to come to an agreement on steps to take because of the increased costs.

“I think what is going to be required is a careful look at how to pare back some of the costs,” he said. “And, if costs can’t be cut back to fit the agency’s commitment or the city doesn’t want to cut back, then sources of funding other than the CRA will have to be identified.”

When Mayor Tom Bradley signed an agreement between the city and the CRA in November, 1985, the CRA’s commitment of $110.4 million in 1984 dollars was divided in 12 broad categories. Because of increased costs, they now account for about $21.9 million in overruns.

Six other categories covering additions to the original plans, including a heading of “Temporary Library,” account for the additional overruns of roughly $22.9 million.

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As an example of changes, the CRA memo cited plans to build a service driveway. In the 1984 budget, it was projected to cost $1.1 million to construct a narrow driveway extending through a portion of the library site to a two-truck loading dock.

Since then, the city has proposed the building of a wider driveway leading to six truck docks and additional storage areas, requiring the removal of the library’s south terraces to allow construction.

Meanwhile, the City Barriers Committee required a ramp for the handicapped and the addition of two elevators, while the agencies concerned with historic certification required that the terraces be reconstructed.

Taking all the changes into account, plus inflation, the CRA said, architects now estimate that the service driveway will cost $5.5 million, an increase of $4.4 million over original plans.

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Plans for the Central Library, approved in July, 1985, call for renovation and expansion of the 60-year-old building to twice its size and construction of two office towers of 73 and 65 stories, as well as parks, fountains and commercial development.


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