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Kell Outlines Plans for Bigger Center

Delivering his first State of the City address in his new role as Long Beach’s full-time, elected mayor, Ernie Kell this week announced plans for a long-awaited expansion of the downtown Convention Center.

The $80-million expansion would more than double exhibit-hall and meeting-room space, add a 20,000 square-foot ballroom and add 3,310 parking spaces to the Ocean Drive complex. Talked about for years, the expansion is considered vital to the growth of the city’s tourism and convention business, on which several new downtown hotels will be largely dependent.

The city is linking arms with the Harbor Commission to finance the expansion, with $50 million slated to come from the commission and the rest from the city, which probably would raise the money by selling revenue bonds.

“I believe that this expansion is the control element for keeping our tourist industry strong,” Kell said in a speech that he delivered twice Tuesday, first to the City Council and then at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

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Assuming the expansion plans are approved by the council and the Harbor Commission, construction is scheduled to begin in June, 1990, with completion two years later.

Presenting an upbeat overview of city affairs devoid of any dramatic new proposals, Kell urged Neighborhood Watch groups to join forces with the police to cleanse their neighborhoods of drug dealers.

Parking Demands Attention

He called for an increase in funding for the city’s sidewalk and street tree maintenance work and said heed must be paid to nagging traffic and parking problems in planning new development. “It is not enough to submit blueprints for buildings,” the mayor said. “We must also have blueprints for traffic management and parking, and compatibility with surrounding areas must be assured.

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“If we are to consider a project of any major scope, I believe we must know how the thousands of visitors expected daily are going to get into and out of Long Beach.”

Kell, a councilman until he was elected to the newly created position of mayor last June, noted that two initiatives he proposed last year are taking shape. A city Office of Education has been established, and an education liaison officer is expected to start work later this month, concentrating on drug-use prevention, anti-gang efforts, and recreation programs.

The Office of Neighborhood and Historic Preservation, another of Kell’s proposals, should open next month, he added.


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