The future look of the Civic Center in Santa Ana is taking shape as Orange County opens a new administration building, but expect to see construction work and traffic detours in the area for several years to come.
The first of several planned modern facilities – and the one the public is most likely to visit – is set to open Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Known as County Administration South, the six-story building facing North Ross Street between West Civic Center Drive and West Santa Ana Boulevard has ample windows, energy-efficient features, visible girders for earthquake safety and underground parking. It will house 11 county departments and a one-stop center to provide a range of customer services.
Need to pay county taxes, apply for a building permit or look up property records? That and more can be done at the ground-floor service center, which includes rows of tables with computer monitors and keyboards where the public can search for information, long counters where representatives of the clerk-recorder, public works, treasurer-tax collector and other departments can answer questions, and an information desk to point people in the right direction.
The new facility also includes a small cafe, a gym for county employees and an adjacent event center for training and conferences.
“It is awesome. The downstairs area especially is so accessible to public,” Mary Beth Anderson, assistant to the Orange County Community Resources director, said after touring the new building. “I’m really looking forward to being able to serve people here.”
County Administration South is part of the first phase of a 20-year project to consolidate and modernize county government offices, which are now scattered around the Civic Center in buildings that are on average 47 years old, county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson said.
The costs of keeping the older facilities in working order has been growing, she said, and it would have cost more to retrofit the old administration building than replace it. Having new, modern offices, officials also hope will help them attract workers.
To pay for Phase 1, county supervisors voted in 2017 to borrow $178 million in bonds, which are expected to cost more than $315 million to repay over the next 30 years.
Future phases of Civic Center improvements also will:
- Renovate the current waste and recycling building at North Flower Street and West Santa Ana Boulevard to house the District Attorney and probation departments, creating a criminal justice campus along with the sheriff’s department and central jails.
- Build County Administration North, which will be a mirror image of County Administration South and will house the county CEO, records and finance departments, supervisors’ offices and a new board meeting chambers.
- Relocate the health care agency about a block to the west along West Santa Ana Boulevard, and move the social services agency into a new building on the administrative campus.
- Demolish a handful of older facilities, eliminate the need for some leased space and parking.
- To accommodate the construction, the Vietnam-era fighter jet that’s been displayed in the Civic Center for a decade will be relocated to the Orange County Fair and Event Center in September.