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After 60 years, Richmond Rededicates a Civic Center Born of 1945 Optimism

Thousands of Richmond residents as well as visitors from around the Bay celebrated the Grand Reopening of the Richmond Civic Center in an all-day event that began at 11:00 AM with speeches and a ribbon cutting and included tours, music, food and entertainment the rest of the afternoon.


The official ceremony began with Richmond Police Department Explorer Post 110 presenting the colors, the National Anthem sung by Voices of Reason and welcomes by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and City Manager Bill Lindsay, who acted as master of ceremonies. Steve Duran, Community and Economic Development Administrator introduced the project implementation team, including City staff, architect, contractors, construction manager and public art facilitators.


Martha Lee, Superintendent of Rosie the Riveter WW II Home Front National Historical Park introduced our own Betty Reid-Soskin, the oldest park ranger in the National Park Service and a “Rosie” whose life has spanned WWII, the Richmond Shipyards and now the rededication of the 60-year old Civic Center.


Sierra Holly, winner of a full art scholarship at San Francisco Academy of Art, donated by the project contractor Pankow Construction, provided a Generation Y connection to the event.


The keynote address was by Richard Gonzales, National Desk Correspondent for National Public Radio. Richard grew up in Richmond and attended local public schools before graduating from Harvard College in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and social relations. He is also co-founder of Familias Unidas, a bi-lingual social services program in his hometown of Richmond, California. Richard’s remarks, which included threads of history woven through the Richmond experience and optimism about the future, received a standing ovation.


After presentations from Supervisor John Gioia and representatives from Congressman Miller, Senator Hancock and Assemblywoman Skinner, a ribbon was cut at the front door of City Hall, and the music, food and entertainment began.


This project had its inception shortly after Loma Prieta when a survey of the structural condition of City buildings was conducted by my firm, Interactive Resources. The Civic Center buildings, although built of reinforced concrete, lacked the earthquake resistance required by modern engineering. The project got a false start in the mid 1990’s when a misguided plan to seismically retrofit the project was fully designed at a cost of nearly $2 million but without a modern program for building reuse. In other words, the same old uses were put back into the same old spaces. Luckily, that design was scrubbed, but the one good thing that came out of that effort was removal of the 9-1-1 dispatch center from the third floor of the Hall of Justice to a separate new building across 27th Street where it now resides.


In 2002, responding to increasing concern about the buildings’ seismic safety and increasingly severe ground water penetration into basement areas, the City Hall, Hall of Justice and Memorial Auditorium were vacated, and City government moved to temporary quarters in Marina Bay for seven years. The Police Department is still there.


For a more detailed description of the Civic Center project, which is slated to receive a LEED Gold certification, click on the following hyperlinks:


·         http://www.baycrossings.com/dispnews.asp?id=2221

·         http://newspaperads.contracostatimes.com/SS/Page.aspx?secid=68427&pagenum=4&sstarg=&facing=false&