‘Fibrary’ Back on Track, $8M in Contracts Awarded

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An artist’s rendering of the Corona del Mar “Fibrary,” a combo project of the CdM library branch and the local fire station.
— Photo courtesy the city of Newport Beach ©

Bookworms and firefighters may be sharing space in Corona del Mar as early as summer 2019, following a Newport Beach City Council decision this week.  

Council members unanimously agreed to move forward with the on-again, off-again CdM library branch and fire station combo project dubbed “fibrary” at their meeting Tuesday.

They voted 7 to 0 to approve the construction contract and several supporting agreements for the project located on Marigold Avenue off Pacific Coast Highway.

The community “persistently and passionately” fought for the library and fire station project, said Councilwoman Diane Dixon.

“It’s the perfect example of your voice being heard,” Dixon said.

Karen Carlson longtime Corona del Mar resident and frequent visitor to the CdM library said she was one of the passionate citizens who fought for the project.

“This is a wonderful example of how a community can pull together and have a wonderful result that seems to meet everyone’s needs,” Carlson said.

Tuesday’s vote brings it one step closer to reality, Dixon added.

It’s been a “long, arduous” process, said Councilman Scott Peotter, whose district covers Corona del Mar. The design reflects what the community wants, he added.

“This is a long time coming,” noted Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill.

In 2014, both buildings were identified for replacement. Conceptual plans for a combined project were presented to the public, Library Board of Trustees, and City Council in 2015. But when bids were submitted in late 2016, they were higher than anticipated and staff recommended rejection.

In early 2017, the project was on hold (possibly for a suggested five to seven years), primarily due to budget concerns.

At the time, City Manager Dave Kiff was concerned about the cost, especially considering the city’s other debts, particularly the unfunded liability. His recommendation a year ago was more about his “inability to foresee the future.”

A year later, seeing the current Council take a strong approach to the pension issue and put the city on better footing to pay it down faster, while at the same time not sacrificing projects like the fibrary, Kiff feels comfortable recommending moving forward with the project.

Now, out of the 16 bids for the project, Orange-based TELACU Construction Management, Inc., came out on top as the most affordable at $6.72 million, and was selected as the contractor.

Construction (contract plus an 8 percent contingency) is estimated at $7.26 million.

The budget also includes $340,000 for relocation efforts, $483,000 for consultants, and $245,000 for specialty items, utilities and miscellaneous. Previous expenditures for design, outreach, value engineering, and past bidding add up to $492,000.

GKK Works Inc., was chosen as the construction management company, and WLC Architects Inc., for design support. Contracts for specialty testing, equipment, utilities and other vendors were also awarded.

The “all-in” cost equals out to $8.82 million.

“These buildings are very expensive these days,” said Deputy Public Works Director and City Engineer Mark Vukojevic.

The construction cost breaks down to approximately $620 per square foot, Vukojevic noted. The bids last December were $660 per square foot, he pointed out.

“So our price today is actually less,” and it was a good idea to re-bid the project, Vukojevic said. “We’re happy with these prices.”

It’s nearly $500,000 cheaper than the previous round of bids last year, estimated Councilman Kevin Muldoon.

The fibrary is being paid for out of the city’s Facilities Financing Program, a savings account-like fund  made up of developer fees and general fund contributions and earmarked for replacing aging structures.

According to the city’s website, the FFP is a “long-term financial plan to fund the construction and or renovation of important community serving facilities.”  

Several Council members noted that developer fees from Uptown Newport, a mixed-use project on Jamboree Road in the airport district, are being used to fund the fibrary.

Although that’s not exactly how the FFP works, Kiff pointed out. The FFP has several “spigots,” one of which may be the Uptown Newport developer fees, he said.

“It’s kind of hard to say which dollars went where because it all fills up the pot,” Kiff said. “I never would tie a project directly to a developer fee from a specific project.”

But the general idea that developer fees are, to some extent, at least partially paying for the project was praised by a few Council members.

The FFP is “one of the best things that past Councils have done,” O’Neill added.

“It really has opened up opportunities for us to continue to… build new… (and) certainly replace old (facilities),” O’Neill said.

The CdM fire station and library were constructed at different times, but both more than 60 years ago. Both have exceeded their service lives, requiring frequent repairs, according to city staff.

A key takeaway of the plan is bringing the fire station up to current standards, Vukojevic said.

Fire department operations will be relocated to the Oasis Senior Center parking lot. The temporary structure is scheduled to be completed by April 7.

Corona del Mar branch services will be transferred to the central library during construction. Certain services and supplemental programming will be at the Community Youth Center or Oasis.

Staff hopes to break ground by April 10. Construction is expected to take about 15 months with a grand opening tentatively scheduled for summer 2019.

The planned 10,314-square-foot combo building includes 30 parking spaces, outdoor reading porch, and living quarters for the firefighters.

Following suggestions from public input, the design will also include a stroller parking area.

“I think that’s going to be a real enhancement to the project,” Vukojevic said.

The architectural style fits nicely with the neighborhood, he added.

Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield called the facility “beautiful.”

“I’d like to move in myself,” Duffield joked.

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