PASADENA — After months of negotiation, the Board of City Directors has approved the purchase of the Pasadena Armenian Center for $600,000, clearing the way for ground breaking of a major shopping center at Lake Avenue and Washington Boulevard.
The final terms of the agreement, approved Tuesday during a closed session of the board, were seen as a victory for Pasadena's growing and politically influential Armenian community. In June, dissatisfied with an appraisal valuing the center at only $325,000, leaders of that community threatened to entangle the $6-million Lake/Washington Redevelopment project in a protracted legal fight.
Although the terms of the agreement were not outlined publicly, city officials and Armenian leaders acknowledged that the Pasadena Community Development Commission, a city agency overseeing the redevelopment project, would purchase the center for $600,000.
Of this amount, they said, $500,000 would go toward the actual purchase of the community center and $100,000 would cover the estimated costs to the city if the Armenian community had brought suit and delayed the project.
Jess Hughston, a city director whose last election was aided by political contributions and votes from the Armenian community, said he did not think the city capitulated to the demands of the Armenians by agreeing to pay the additional $100,000.
"I know that what we agreed to wasn't in response to any threats they may have made," Hughston said. "There was a lot more to the agreement than that." The city director refused to elaborate.
Along with the purchase of the Armenian community center, the board approved the acquisition of the Unity Christ Church and another parcel located on the 5.4-acre redevelopment site scheduled for ground breaking later this month. The terms of those purchases also were not made public at the meeting.
The final purchase price for the center at 1285 N. Lake Ave. was nearly double the $350,000 that the city initially offered the Armenian community, which had purchased the center three years ago for $320,000.
In June, after months of unsuccessful negotiations with the city, Bill Paparian, a Pasadena attorney representing the community center, publicly threatened to tie up the city's redevelopment project. A cross section of Pasadena's 15,000-member Armenian community packed the board room as Paparian asked the city to postpone condemnation proceedings on the center, reappraise its value and help the community find a new location.
In a matter of days, the city contracted with a private firm for a reappraisal of the center, and city directors became personally involved in the search for a new location. The reappraisal put the center's value at $500,000, Paparian said, a 54% increase over the old appraisal, completed about a year ago.
Paparian said the Armenian community paid $500,000 for its new home at 740 E. Washington Blvd, less than two blocks from the old center. He said the $100,000 left over from the agreement with the city would be used to renovate the new center, which was purchased from Dan Stathatos. Stathatos, the owner of a Pasadena floral and crafts supply store, bought the building only four months earlier for $320,000, according to county property records.
Paparian said he objected to any suggestion that elected officials--mindful of the growing political clout of the Armenian community--yielded to Armenian demands.
"If it was a sweetheart deal, it was sure a hard deal coming," he said. "Nobody at City Hall made it was easy for us. We fought tooth and nail with the city all the way."
In addition to the $600,000 settlement, the city has agreed to purchase--at a cost of up to $200,000--a narrow lot near the new Armenian center. The city would use part of the lot for parking and offer the Armenian center a lease option on the remainder of it.