Yet Another Bite to Sell Historic Offices on El Centro

Sent back to the drawing board yet again, the South Pasadena Unified School District entered into what it hopes will be the last agreement to sell its main office, a transaction required to trigger its purchase of a new property.
The SPUSD Board of Education agreed unanimously in a special meeting last week to an agreement with West Hollywood-based Summitrose Investments, which has offered to buy the property at 1020 El Centro St. for $13 million. The agreement follows a prior failed land-swap endeavor and, more recently, an agreement to sell the land to developers who planned to install a mixed-use commercial area that included a boutique hotel.
“This whole process, it’s a winding road, but it’s also a roller coaster,” observed board member Jon Primuth. “We seem a little bit exhausted here; it’s because we’ve been here before and we’re hoping this is the last time that it goes through.”

Assuming the deal escapes the due diligence portion of the transaction, it will make official the district’s purchase of 1100 El Centro, directly across from the current office from Fairview Avenue. District officials have long wished to relocate into a newer and larger building to better accommodate the growth of its operations and technological needs.
The city also has a vision for better incorporating 1020 El Centro with its land-use planning for the Mission Street commercial zone, adding incentive for SPUSD to be a good neighbor with City Hall.
“We all care about our current piece of property and we all want to see it developed in such a way that it just brings more success and character to our city,” board President Michele Kipke said. “We have not been myopic in the way in which we have approached this. We’ve really been looking at this in a much more holistic way and really thinking through all of the different stakeholders.”
The district in July agreed to terms to sell its property to a development LLC — titled School House — for $14.5 million. The firm leading School House, Creative Housing Associates, even had mocked up renderings of a plan to concert part of the office to an events venue while also adding condominiums, a marketplace and a small hotel.
“A second equity partner entered into an agreement [with School House] and the school district, and ultimately, they terminated the process just prior to the end of the due diligence period,” Superintendent Geoff Yantz explained last week.
Part of the assessment for the prior transaction agreement indicated that the current district office, which is designated as a historic landmark, likely needs at least $6 million in renovation or restoration. SPUSD is purchasing 1100 El Centro for $10.75 million.
Board clerk Ruby Kalra tipped her cap to Sam Manoukian, the district’s real estate representative, for “hanging in with us for all these proposals” and helping the district through a bumpy sale process.
“It’s been a long road and like anything in this current pandemic environment, it has been a long and winding road, so thank you for working with us,” she said.
Primuth added that a focused board was essential to the district making it all the way to this point.
“I have to say just how grateful I am for my colleagues who’ve fleshed out issues and asked great questions,” he said. “We have had lively debate and a great sense of being together on this.”