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Old Pasadena Project : New Plans Unveiled for Marketplace

September 06, 1987|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — After a delay of nearly 1 1/2 years, developers of Old Pasadena's long-awaited Marketplace project launched a new bid last week to win city approval.

The only significant change in plans presented to the city's Design Commission Thursday is the elimination of an underground shopping area that was deemed too complex and expensive to build.

The commission, which had approved the original plans, delayed a decision to allow members to study the proposal for the $75-million project.

But several commissioners noted that the Marketplace plans are virtually identical to those the commission approved in 1985 and predicted few obstacles will stand in the way of approval again.

'Aggressive' Schedule

Developers of the 338,000-square-foot project, CMC Capital Corp., said they expect to meet an "aggressive" schedule of starting construction in January.

"I believe everything will go fairly smoothly," said Bruce Phillips, CMC's vice president in charge of the project. "We've always gotten a very positive response from the city."

The Marketplace project--long considered the cornerstone of the revitalization of Old Pasadena--involves turning a square block of turn-of-the-century buildings into a modern shopping mall with restaurants and offices.

The interior of the buildings would be gutted while the exterior facades would be restored to maintain the historic appearance of the brick and stucco buildings at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue.

"The project has not changed that dramatically," Phillips said. "We've just simplified it."

The Community Development Commission and the Planning Commission will also review the project in the next few weeks, Phillips said.

Trouble With Financing

The project had begun to stall in 1985 because of difficulties the developers at that time--John Patrick Wilson, Albert Ehringer, Robert J. Morris and Garry Marshall--had in securing financing.

A year later, the developers secured a $106-million loan from the First Interstate Mortgage Co., but the deal fell through when the developers were unable to provide a $30-million guarantee in case the project failed.

In July, CMC became a partner, reviving hopes that the project would finally go forward.

The delay has taken its toll on some of the buildings that have not been occupied or maintained since they were bought for the mall project starting about five years ago.

On Thursday, a portion of the roof and wall of the old Salvation Army building caved in, sparking concern that the buildings may sustain more damage while waiting for construction to begin.

One concern raised about the new plans was the proposed demolition of part of a brick building that was not called for in previous plans.

Phillips said two walls must be torn down to facilitate excavation for a basement theater complex and will later be replaced with the original bricks.

But Commissioner David Duncan said demolishing the walls may be illegal because the project is located in a city historical district. Duncan asked for an opinion from the city attorney.

Duncan also raised concerns about the design of a four-story building that he called inappropriate because of its modern appearance. The building will house an indoor market, offices and the theater complex.

Despite his criticisms, Duncan said he is sure the project will be approved.

Paul Gleye, the commission's staff analyst, said: "There is nothing in the staff report that jeopardizes the project. Our recommendation is still for approval."

Finding permanent financing for the project remains a hurdle for the developers. Phillips said there are "several lenders interested, but we don't have a commitment at this point."

Phillips said CMC plans to have construction of the Marketplace completed by May, 1989, and have the mall open for business by that fall.

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