School District Agrees to Terms to Sell Office

The South Pasadena Unified School District has sold its longtime main office, which is a historic landmark.
Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review

Once the final details of a purchase agreement are hammered out, the South Pasadena Unified School District seemed poised to officially begin moving offices, all the way across the street.
The school board last week unanimously agreed to pursue a purchase agreement with School House LLC, which has offered to purchase 1020 El Centro St. from SPUSD and install a mixed-use development that faces Mission Street while renovating the historic building that now houses the district office. School House LLC is the formal title of that development.
“We’re very honored to have been selected,” said Michael Dieden, president of Creative Housing Associates, which is spearheading School House LLC. “South Pasadena is a very special place and we’ve enjoyed our relationships over the past 25 years. We feel a heavy responsibility to do a fantastic job.”
Though the district already had entered into an agreement to purchase 1100 El Centro St. for its office relocation, that transaction is conditional on the sale of the current office. School House LLC is offering to purchase the current property for $14.5 million.
“I think this is a very financially beneficial transaction and we’re getting exactly what we need with it,” school board member Jon Primuth said last week. “The timing couldn’t have been better.”

Dieden explained that the development proposal included in its bid a boutique hotel, a complex of condominiums and a public marketplace alongside other retail businesses facing Mission Street. Additionally, the existing building would be renovated and restored with the intent of using part of it as an events center.
The Pasadena firm J Lou Architects would be brought in for hospitality design, while Pomona-based Arteco Partners would handle the historic restoration. The primary project architect would be South Pasadena-based Crux Studio.
The school board’s vote last week followed a closed session discussion on the sale. The district held a bidding process that closed on June 25. It had earlier in June approved the conditional purchase of 1100 El Centro for $10.75 million, which is presently occupied by the Collins Collins Muir + Stewart law firm.
The district has long wanted to vacate its current location, built more than 100 years ago, largely because the district has outgrown the limitations of the historic building. The new building, constructed in the ‘70s, boasts more space and a layout more congruent for district offices and storage needs.
Further, the current office is estimated to need around $6 million in renovations to bring it up to modern standards and code, a detail fresh in board members’ minds.
“We really, really don’t want to pull money from the bond measure to put toward that building,” school board President Michele Kipke said last week. “It’s just that that $6 million, we would much rather have go directly to our school campuses.”
Assuming all else proceeds smoothly, the district expects to have completed its move within a year. Dieden said he anticipated coordinating and collaborating with SPUSD throughout planning for the project, which fits into the city’s Mission Street Specific Plan.
“We’ll work hand-in-hand with them,” he said, noting again that SPUSD would be right across the street.