SPUSD Sells its Historic Building | A ‘Monumental Moment’ Says Superintendent Geoff Yantz

Sale sets stage for new hotel and condo development on Mission Street

FILE PHOTO COLLAGE: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | SPUSD Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz and soon-to-be former District Headquarters

The South Pasadena Unified School District has unanimously authorized its superintendent to sign a 21-page agreement under which it will sell its historic headquarter structure on the south side of El Centro St. It will use the proceeds to complete its acquisition of the two-story office building down the block and across the street at 1100 El Centro on the corner of Fairview Ave.

The historic building will be sold to School House South Pasadena LLC for $14.5 million. After that, the District will lease the building for six months for $1. The exact closing date of the deal has not been determined, but the District hopes to complete its move within a year.

Michael Dieden is president of Creative Housing Associates, the 25-year old Culver City firm which oversees the unregistered School House South Pasadena LLC. Creative Housing was also the developer of the nearby 67-unit Mission-Meridian Village complex.

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Dieden told the South Pasadenan News his firm will invest $60 million to $70 million to redevelop the site with a unique, 30-room “boutique” hotel and a condominium complex with between 40 and 60 units —though the number of affording housing units remains to be negotiated with the city. The current District headquarters building will be “sensitively restored” to Secretary of Interior standards and repurposed to serve as a combination hotel lobby with a gateway and entry serving as the hotel’s administrative office and front desk with a bar, lounge area, as well as some rooms. An auditorium, to be christened the Arroyo Room, will serve as a venue space for weddings, jazz festivals and school events, and be available for use by the community.

Crux Studio of South Pasadena will be the lead architect while J. Lou Architects of Pasadena will design the hotel and Architect Partners of Pomona will be lead for the historic restoration.

Dieden said current plans call for the project to have its city entitlement documents within 12 to 18 months. He said the grand opening will be sometime in 2024.

The deal comes about a month after the District arranged a conditional purchase the 1100 El Centro property for $10.75 million. The building is the current home of the statewide law firm Collins, Colins, Muir & Stewart.

Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz called approval of the agreement a “monumental moment” for the District that has been in the making for 15 years. He said the deal achieves all the objectives the Board set out for the transaction in that it provides a safe, energy-efficient and functional administrative office for the next century; reallocates Measure SP bond dollars back to the District; promotes economic, social and cultural vitality on Mission St; is consistent with the city’s Downtown Specific Plan; restores and preserves the historic building and its architectural heritage; generates ongoing revenue to support the long-term financial needs of the District; and will provide the physical space needed for education-related support programs.

Board member Dr. Ruby Kalra said that ever since the District determined it wanted to go with a swap, “everything pointed to the 1100 El Centro property, and it just so happened that no one could secure that property. But the owner was willing to engage directly with the District to purchase the property pending our sale” of the historic headquarter building.

Board President Dr. Michele Kipke said it would have cost the District $6 million to upgrade its existing structure and required bond money that the District much prefers to spend on its school campuses. “That’s why we wanted to explore other options.” The existing century-old structure was never meant to be used for offices, so a swap seemed the right approach.

But then the current deal just “fell into our lap.” Ever since she came on the board a decade ago, Kipke said, “we’ve been struggling with what to do with this property.” Now things have at last fallen in line.

“The price is right for us,” added Board member Jon Primuth. “This is a very financially beneficial transaction and we are getting exactly what we need out of it. The timing could not have been better.”

”It’s really exciting that the stars lined up and that we were able to do this quickly,” added board member Dr. Suzie Abajian.

More on this story as the deal unfolds.  Your comments are welcomed below

Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.