PASADENA — After more than four years of delays, a controversial plan to build a modern shopping mall called the Marketplace in the heart of Old Pasadena has won the approval of the Board of Directors.
The project, which was bitterly opposed by preservationists, won the board's support after developers agreed to a compromise that preserves the major portion of six historic buildings which would have been significantly changed under the developers' earlier proposal.
Mayor William Thomson said the compromise scales back the demolition that would have been required for the original plan and creates a project more in keeping with the character of Old Pasadena.
The board approved the project by a 4-2 vote, with Thomson and Directors John Crowley, Kathryn Nack and William Paparian voting for the proposal and Directors Rick Cole and Jess Hughston voting against.
The developers, Pasadena Marketplace Associates, cheered the decision, saying the compromise will allow them to build a profitable project while preserving the most distinctive buildings in the area.
"We're happy with the plan," said Bruce Phillips, executive director of Pasadena Marketplace Associates. "I hope we can all work together now."
The compromise, which was worked out in a series of meetings two days before the board's approval Thursday, requires the developers to secure all financing for the project within six months or lose the approval.
The developers have not yet secured a loan to build the $60-million Marketplace.
But Phillips said the partnership is negotiating with SoPac Credit Corp. for the construction loan.
He said that if financing can be obtained, construction could begin as early as this fall and be finished by the spring of 1990.
The board also decided Thursday that if the developers fail to secure the necessary financing in six months, it would take steps to condemn the property and take it over through eminent domain.
Opponents of the project said they were still unhappy.
"The compromise is definitely superior to the developers' (original) proposal, but we do not support the mall concept, even on a limited basis," said Sue Mossman, program director for the historic preservation group, Pasadena Heritage.
Cole added that despite the restoration of the six buildings, any type of mall in Old Pasadena would damage the historic character of the area.
'Most Sacred Block'
"Why do we take the most historic block in the city and turn it into a shopping mall? It's just another mall," he said. "This block is the most sacred block to us."
A group of Pasadena residents called the Coalition for Old Pasadena has hinted that it may challenge the board's approval in court because of what it says are serious problems with the project's environmental impact report.
But Neil Barker, an attorney for the coalition, said Thursday that no decision has been made regarding legal action against the city.
The Pasadena Marketplace involves the construction of a 350,000-square-foot shopping mall behind the facades of a block of historic buildings at Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue.
The plan was first proposed in 1984 by developer John Patrick Wilson, who with the financial backing of television producer Garry Marshall, purchased the block of turn-of-the-century buildings.
Wilson's plan was to turn the block into a trendy shopping mall with movie theaters, food stands and chic boutiques.
The original plan called for a central atrium through most of the buildings providing a walkway for shoppers. The compromise scales back the atrium and walkway.
Developers said the historic ambiance of Old Pasadena and the chic collection of shops would draw shoppers from all over the region.
2 Parking Structures
The city was impressed enough with the proposal to spend $27 million to build two parking structures with 1,446 spaces to ease the parking crunch in Old Pasadena and handle the expected onslaught of Marketplace shoppers.
But from the beginning, historic preservationists attacked the proposal as oversized, phony and economically dubious.
Pasadena Heritage said the mall would destroy the walls, floors and roofs of the buildings, considered to be historically significant.
Claire Bogaard, the executive director of Pasadena Heritage, said the mall also would change the character of Old Pasadena by shifting the focus away from Colorado Boulevard and toward the enclosed walkways of the Marketplace.
Some shop owners were concerned that shoppers would tend to stay inside the mall and not venture out to buy in the rest of the area.
Pasadena Heritage maintained the buildings should be restored and developed as individual structures like the rest of Old Pasadena.
The compromise leaves unresolved a major concern of opponents about the developers' financial ability to carry out their plans.