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New School, Auto Row OKd in Duarte

April 02, 1987|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

DUARTE — After a year of planning and compromises, the City Council and the school district this week approved an ambitious project under which the city will pay for construction of a new junior high school and thereby acquire freeway frontage it needs to develop an automobile row.

The city, which will finance the project through its Redevelopment Agency, will buy the land on Central Avenue now occupied by Northview School for $7.8 million, and build a new $8-million junior high school about a quarter of a mile down the road, next to Duarte High School.

The city's objectives are to consolidate commercial zoning along Central Avenue near Buena Vista Avenue to generate additional sales tax revenue. The school district wants to create an educational complex along Central Avenue near Highland Avenue so that the two schools are not separated by commercial enterprises. City Manager Jesse Duff said he hopes the project can be completed in about two years.

The major stumbling block had been the district's desire for a 1,000-seat auditorium that would have cost $6 million.

The agreement reached Tuesday night guarantees that the district will get at least a 350-seat auditorium at a cost of $1.5 million, and leaves open the possibility that it might be expanded.

Officials Tell Satisfaction

Mayor John Van Doren joined other city and school officials in expressing satisfaction with the agreement, saying that the cooperation between the two agencies will benefit the entire city.

The sole dissenter was Councilman John Hitt, who said it is premature to go ahead with the project amid some uncertainty about financing.

But other councilmen and school board members said that if the agreement were to be delayed any longer, the project would probably be abandoned.

The project had been beset by financial problems throughout the yearlong discussions. Several methods of financing had been discussed and discarded, including one that would have required approval of two-thirds of the voters.

The agreement assumes that auto dealers will be willing to pay $8 per square foot for the 15 acres the city will acquire for three or four auto dealerships. And the Duarte Redevelopment Agency will not recover any costs for 14 years, twice as long as usual.

Some Plans Deferred

As a result, the city will have only a marginal return on its investment and several projects the school district wanted to include in its educational complex will have to be deferred.

These include a larger auditorium, renovation of the stadium track, construction of a historical museum and a $1-million gymnasium for Northview School.

The school board tried Tuesday night to get agreement for a 500-seat auditorium, arguing that the city now has no such facility.

"The board feels we need a 500-seat auditorium because it will serve the entire community," said Janet Wight, school board president.

But Duff said it might be financially feasible to expand the auditorium's capacity to 500 before construction begins.

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