PASADENA — The long-awaited Pasadena Marketplace project has been thrown into limbo again after the announcement last week that the owner of the property, television producer Garry Marshall, has decided to sell the block of historic buildings.
Bruce Phillips, the executive director of Pasadena Marketplace Associates, said Marshall's decision ends the partnership between Marshall and developers John Patrick Wilson, Albert Ehringer and Robert J. Morris, who have nursed the project along for the past four years.
Wilson, Ehringer and Morris will no longer be involved with the project.
Phillips said Marshall has begun negotiations with Los Angeles developer Ned Wilmot to buy the property.
According to Phillips, Wilmot has said he will continue with the current proposal, which was approved by the Board of Directors last month, to build a 350,000-square-foot shopping mall on the property.
But Phillips said the property, located at Fair Oaks Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, could be sold to another developer, opening the possibility for a different proposal.
"It may or may not be the development that we have had approved," he said, "but the block will remain intact and somebody will develop it."
City Manager Donald F. McIntyre said it was still too early to tell what will happen.
But if a new development is proposed it would mean more delays in the planning process that many board members say has already dragged on far too long.
The board has threatened to seize the property through eminent domain if Pasadena Marketplace Associates failed to secure financing for the project by the end of the year.
But McIntyre said the city would give a new developer time to design another proposal.
"If there is any chance of a developer doing a deal, and they have a good track record, I don't think the city wants to get involved" in the project, McIntyre said.
Pasadena Heritage, a historical preservation group, was also unsure of what to expect.
The group has opposed Pasadena Marketplace Associates' plan to build a modern shopping mall in Old Pasadena, saying other developers are willing to build on the site without damaging the historic buildings.
But Edward Garlock, a member of the Pasadena Heritage board of directors, said there is no way to tell if a new developer would have a better proposal.
"Until you know who the buyer is, it is just too hard to tell," he said.
Phillips said Marshall, who provided the money to buy the block, has long been disgruntled with the project's progress and the amount of money it has consumed. Marshall has never disclosed how much money he has invested.
According to sources close to the project, Marshall tried to force his partners to buy him out in 1987 by stopping payments on seven properties in Old Pasadena.
The idea was to force Wilson and the other partners to find a new partner or risk losing part of the block of buildings needed to build the Marketplace mall.
The threat was defused a few months later when CMC Capital Corp., a Connecticut-based company, joined the partnership.
But CMC Capital left the partnership earlier this year, saying the project had become too costly.
Phillips said Marshall's latest attempt to get out of the partnership surfaced in May when he asked Wilson, Ehringer and Morris to buy him out.
"He decided he didn't want to be in the real estate development business," Phillips said.
Marshall gave his partners until last Sunday to buy the property or he would find a buyer, Phillips said.
Wilson, Ehringer and Morris asked Marshall for an extension as the deadline approached but were turned down, Phillips said.
The Marketplace, which was first proposed in 1984, would involve the construction of a $60-million shopping mall behind the facades of the turn-of-the-century buildings.
The mall would include trendy shops, movie theaters, food stands and chic boutiques.
The interiors of several buildings would have to be destroyed to make way for a central atrium and walkway for shoppers.
Many business people and city officials have hailed the project as the cornerstone of the revitalization of Old Pasadena.
But preservationists have attacked the proposal as glitzy, oversized and economically dubious.