On the sands of the iconic Venice Beach boardwalk stands a new community hub for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles – BAR Center at the Beach. Built by Southern California-based Del Amo Construction, the nearly 100-year-old building is now open and equipped with exciting new spaces to gather, connect and live.
The Del Amo Construction team was tasked with implementing a total renovation of the former Israel Levin Senior Center, which was built in 1927 and originally served as a dance hall with multiple additions and remodels over the years, including the removal of its second floor following severe damage incurred by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. As a result, the building had become somewhat of a ‘Frankenstein’, which gave rise to multiple challenges throughout the construction process.
Some of the most significant constructability challenges that Del Amo Construction faced during the project involved navigating the unique site conditions, modernizing the historic building while maintaining its structural integrity and executing intricate architectural and design features.
Site on the sand
BAR Center at the Beach serves its community from a prime location on the Venice boardwalk. However, this meant the Del Amo Construction team was working directly on the beach and within an exceptionally confined area throughout the entirety of the project. Furthermore, the building’s original foundation was built on the sand itself, requiring the team to shore the existing walls in place while the new footings and slabs were being constructed via a relocated and cantilevered shoring system.
The team gave constant attention to shoring, navigating new underground utilities in and around the temporary shoring and bracing to ensure the existing brick walls that were to remain withstood all new construction activities.
With consideration to the century-old structure, Del Amo Construction also needed to find ways to incorporate the original brick walls into the new center while strengthening its structural integrity. The team chose to apply Fabric-Reinforced Cementitious Matrix (FRCM) to encapsulate the existing brick walls and provide increased structural strength that now supports new floors above. New materials and constructability approaches like the FRCM allowed the construction team to provide the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles with a new building that is structurally sound for generations to come.
Designed by Belzberg Architects, BAR Center at the Beach displays an architecturally stunning, three-dimensional façade that functions as a sculptural art piece to help the building standout in its oceanfront community. In order to bring this technically challenging architectural feature to fruition, Del Amo Construction orchestrated meticulous pre-planning with the design team, manufacturer and installers to ensure proper constructability of this unique element, including guaranteeing that every dimension would seamlessly integrate with the building, the lighting systems and storefront.
In particular, the lighting integration into the façade required a one-of-a-kind system that was installed by a process of trial and error to ensure that cabling to each of the individual three-dimensional panels would be fed without being seen from onlookers on the boardwalk. Furthermore, each section needed to be programmed to provide specific color schemes so that the wall façade would achieve the design team and owner’s vision. Del Amo Construction’s nimble construction processes and ability to make real-time adjustments helped the team to successfully implement this design element.
The result of this complex restoration project is three floors and 7,000 square feet of new community space including a reception area, spacious community room, commercial kitchen, meeting rooms, classrooms, flex spaces, library and a new rooftop deck shaded by an angular, chuppah-reminiscent trellis. A three-bedroom apartment sits atop the building to offer housing for recent college grads in exchange for them leading on-site activities between diverse sections of the community. This living component addition is a firstamongother community centers within the federation.
The new BAR Center at the Beach not only accommodates the diverse needs of the populations it serves, but also enhances the building’s presence on the iconic Venice Beach boardwalk and brings new life and vibrance to the area. With its increased capacity and usability, its reach is projected to extend past Venice to greater LA’s Jewish community at large. Furthermore, in keeping with the neighborhood’s rich history, the center offers programming for all to experience and enjoy, regardless of religion.