The Santa Monica College Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to award the contract to build the new Early Childhood Lab (ECL) School to the Nazerian Group for $21 million. The City of Santa Monica will provide $6.7 million for the construction, while SMC will be responsible for the remainder.

Architect and onsite construction manager for the proposed project, Jeffery Weinstein, gave his recommendation to the Board at their April 3 meeting to award the bid to Nazerian based on the recommendation of “multiple K-12 school districts, including Pasadena, Long Beach, Simi Valley, and El Monte.” Weinstein is a representative for Vanir Construction Management, the company contracted by SMC to oversee the ECL project, including the construction bidding process.

The ECL is a three-building project of about 20,000 square feet plus additional outdoor play areas. According to SMC, the project was first conceived in 1989 and is part of the formal plans to revitalize the Civic Center area. The project is a partnership between SMC, the City, and the RAND Corporation. RAND provided money to the City during construction of its nearby headquarters that will be used to fund tuition subsidies for the program.

The day to day operation of the ECL will be handled by local preschool The Growing Place.

The Nazerian Group is a construction company that has been family operated in Southern California for over 40 years that has previously built and rehabilitated local schools and public works. Recent projects by Nazerian include the construction of a new campus for Century High School in Alhambra and the renovation of La Mirada Library in the city of La Mirada.

According to Nazerian Group President Vic Nazerian, the group “specializes in public schools and municipal buildings,” and the Board of Trustees mentioned multiple times that the group’s experience in these kinds of projects encouraged their decision to choose them to build the ECL. The main incentive according to Weinstein was that their bid came in at just shy of $22 million, roughly $2 million less than the only other “responsible bidder.”

A “responsible bid” is a criterion used by the City of Santa Monica, which ensures that a bidder on any city project is fully prepared, certified, and vetted before their bid may be considered.

Due to delays in previous projects of a similar nature, such as the proposed SMC Malibu Campus, Trustee Rob Rader asked if the bid has any contingency planning for potential delays and cost overruns. Weinstein assured the board that there was “a 10-percent contingency limit on the project,” meaning that SMC would not be liable for any cost overruns that exceeded 10-percent of the overall budget.

Construction on the ECL is set to begin this year, with the center planned to open in 2020.