If all goes well, employees at the South Pasadena Unified School district (SPUSD) could be on the move – literally – after action taken by the local Board of Education Tuesday night.
Approval was given by the board to depart SPUSD headquarters at 1020 El Centro Street and purchase the building immediately to east on the same street at 1100 El Centro. A major contingency, however, lies in the wake of the proposed transaction.
The property owner, Sam Muir, who owns residences in both South Pasadena and Oakland, did not want to be involved in a property exchange with a developer, which the district had been entertaining as a means of vacating its existing location. “However, he was very interested in and wanted to work directly with the school district in providing us with a first right of refusal to purchase the property,” explained South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “We’ve been engaged in that process for the last three or four months, and what that led to was a very fortunate opportunity for the district to actually secure a property directly that would meet our needs.”
Muir and the school district went through negotiations and have agreed to price and terms of $10.75 million for the purchase of 1100 El Centro Street. The purchase is contingent on the sale of the school district headquarters, stressed Yantz, which was put on sale Wednesday.
“We sent an RFP (request for proposal) to developers who would be interested in [the district headquarters], basically [asking] to give us a proposal,” explained Yantz, noting the development proposals require developers to retain the architectural and historical nature of the property.
What’s the asking price for the SPUSD property? The RFP reflects the “highest proposal and value is greater than 1100 El Centro,” noted the superintendent in an email.
“It would be a re-adaptive reuse,” Yantz said of construction taking place at the SPUSD site. “That would be required by the city’s plan, so it’s dictated more by the city than it is by us.”
Early on when talks began to do something with the SPUSD headquarters, board members unanimously approved a request for proposal (RFP) on a proposed property exchange, Yantz saying the RFP would be made to the public, developers and investors interested in swapping properties. “In essence, an exchange occurs when an interested buyer or developer purchases another property which the district has an interest in moving into in exchange for the district property,” he explained last November.
Sam Manoukian, a RE/MAX broker specializing in commercial property transactions, conducted a survey of South Pasadena properties that would accommodate the district headquarters. In South Pasadena there is “a limited supply of that, 7,8,9 buildings possibly,” said Yantz. “This obviously was one of the buildings on the list, but the timing was right because Mr. Muir was interested in selling his property. It worked out. The timing for everyone’s needs was aligned.”
During Tuesday night’s board of education meeting, Yantz gave a detailed historical perspective on the property and why it is important to relocate his staff. “The district has been at this for 10, 12, 13, 14 years,” said Yantz. “This most recent initiative we started up just over three years ago. We went down a path that was in parallel to the city’s development of their Mission Street Specific Plan work and ultimately after many board meetings, discussions and presentations we tried to pursue what was called a property exchange.”
The Mission Street Specific Plan provides a blueprint, or guidance for development, into what the street could look like in the future. City officials have long talked about filling what’s commonly referred to as the “missing tooth” with storefronts. A long, one block cement wall fronting the district’s parking lot along Mission Street, from Diamond Avenue to Fairview Avenue, currently occupies the space.
“Whoever purchases it would obviously need to abide by the city’s plan,” said Yantz.
Over the years, the superintendent has made it clear the SPUSD headquarters does not have the ability to make the type of investment to make it an ideal space for its workforce.
He calls the new property, a former school, “perfect for our district operations – to the size, the layout, and there’s very little work that would need to be done, just some minor modifications and improvements,” he said. “We will go through an inspection of the building, obviously, but from what we can see, at least from our visits, it will be able to provide everything we need.”
“It’s a milestone that we have reached in this process,” said Yantz. “We still have a ways to go, but I’m excited. It accomplishes all of our objectives that we set out. The beautiful building that we’re currently in has great architectural style, integrity so forth. It’s wonderful to think and hope that it will be preserved and repurposed. It’s going to take considerable investment to bring it up to anywhere close to current standards. There’s no fire/life safety, no ADA accessibility access, our server room is compromised, it lacks the appropriate security, the toilets were intended for kindergarten and first graders. There’s a lot.”
When it comes to packing up, preparing for the move if the plan succeeds, which Yantz sounding confident it will, workers for the district won’t have to travel far to find their new digs. “We’ll put our backpacks on and walk across the street,” said Yantz, laughing.