Design work is well underway following the selection of the construction contractor team for the $1.7 billion, five-year Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Replacement Project in West Carson, one of the largest hospital capital projects in recent L.A. County history.
The 72-acre Harbor- UCLA Medical Center campus is home to one of the five county-run public hospitals in L.A. County; that hospital is designated as a Level 1 trauma center.
The replacement project will include a new inpatient tower, an outpatient tower with space for support services, a new parking structure and a new central infrastructure plant, among other facilities.
On Feb. 8, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors awarded a design-build contract of roughly $1.24 billion to a team led by Greeley, Colo.-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and two local architectural firms: downtown Los Angeles-based HMC Architects and Miracle Mile-based CO Architects.
The county also revised upward the total budget for the project by about $60 million to nearly $1.7 billion, mostly due to rising construction costs.
While a spokesman for Hensel Phelps declined to give a specific construction start date, construction is projected to last about five years, meaning it will have to begin by the end of this year to meet the current December 2027 completion target. The construction is projected to provide about 800 jobs.
According to the architecture team, taking such a comprehensive approach has given planners the opportunity to remake the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center campus into a more logical and organic whole.
“The new Harbor-UCLA Medical Center will consolidate the patient experience around a central park, providing easy wayfinding and access to both inpatient and outpatient services through this natural center,” CO Architects’ Principal Gina Chang said in a March 17 statement from the design-build team several weeks after the county contract award. “In the new facility, staff and caregivers will have a structure of team-based spaces that emphasize collaboration and the delivery of high-quality healthcare, as well as spaces that enable teaching in both clinical and educational environments.”
The centerpiece of the Harbor-UCLA modernization plan is a new eight-story, 468,000-square-foot inpatient tower capable of holding 346 beds. As of November 2020, the cost of the tower was estimated at $894 million; that was prior to the upward cost revision for the entire replacement project that was approved two months ago.
The new inpatient tower would replace the existing eight-story hospital tower that opened in 1963 and now has 453 licensed beds. That main hospital tower does not meet current earthquake codes; a state law, SB 1953, requires all hospitals to be upgraded to the most recent earthquake standards by 2030 or else be shut down. Several hospitals have opted to close rather than spend tens of millions of dollars to meet the legal requirement.
L.A. County officials decided Harbor-UCLA Medical Center was too vital to be shut down. But they also decided that the main hospital tower would require too much retrofit work and that it would be better to build an entirely new structure.
A second set of facilities was pegged at $615 million in late 2020. The third and final set of facilities was estimated to cost $128 million in late 2020.