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Groups Have Innovative Ideas for Ex-Police Station : Landmark Highland Park Building Attracts Attention of 3 Potential Developers

August 17, 1989|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

After a developer who had planned to renovate and develop the landmark 1920s police station in Highland Park dragged his feet for three years, Los Angeles officials started looking around for other takers.

It didn't take long. Three months after the city solicited proposals to renovate the stately building, three groups with innovative ideas for the property are competing for permission to purchase the site.

A Los Angeles developer envisions the station as the centerpiece of a home for a folk dance company and an artists colony; a group of retired police officers wants to use the station to house a museum of police artifacts, and a developer in Alhambra wants to make the station into a complex of offices and restaurants.

The proposals being considered by the city are plans by:

* H. T. Greene & Associates, a Los Angeles developer, to renovate the station to house the Aman Folk Ensemble--a 25-year-old, internationally acclaimed dance troupe that has no permanent home--and to build a complex of buildings around the station for apartments, shops and housing for artists.

* A group of senior and retired officers with the Los Angeles Police Department to establish a police museum and teaching facility at the station.

* The Jacmar Companies, an Alhambra developer, to lease the station for office space and to build a Sizzler or Shakey's restaurant on the balance of the property.

In Alatorre's District

City Bureau of Engineering officials said they will meet with representatives of City Councilman Richard Alatorre, whose district includes the police station, to discuss the proposals. Their recommendations will be forwarded to the Los Angeles City Council, which must approve sale of the property.

The station is recognized by the city, state and federal governments as a landmark. City officials have been trying to sell it to an appropriate developer since 1983, when the Police Department's Northeast Division moved to larger quarters on San Fernando Road in Atwater.

City officials, civic leaders and local merchants say they are seeking a project that would preserve the imposing brick building, revitalize the sleepy commercial district surrounding it and increase police presence in the area.

The request for proposals from the city specified that new construction conform to the building's Renaissance Revival architectural style, that the station's basement be set aside for community use and that an area be made available as a Police Department substation for officers of the Northeast Division to write reports, make phone calls and meet people.

City Requirements

The city is also requiring that any developer of the site bring the building up to earthquake standards and remove asbestos in the building.

The city's request for proposals also disclosed that there is a 2,000-gallon tank, which may contain toxic or hazardous materials, buried at the site.

The competition between the groups seeking to acquire the site is starting to heat up. The groups are seeking to not only acquire the site but to solicit city and state funds to help get their projects off the ground.

Last week, a Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective who is behind the push by police personnel to turn the station into a museum made a pitch for the endorsement of the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce at its monthly meeting. But at the last minute, one of the merchants at the meeting pulled out the plan from H. T. Greene & Associates, and the group decided to defer any endorsement until its members had explored all the proposals.

The proposal by the group of police officers is to create a museum, a community meeting place, a small theater and a research library in the station house and a souvenir shop in a garage building adjacent to the station.

Sgt. Richard Kalk, a 28-year veteran of the police force, is soliciting donations from various Police Department-affiliated nonprofit organizations to purchase the 58,000-square-foot site. He estimated the cost of renovating the building and removing the toxic materials at more than $1.1 million. He said none of the money has yet been raised.

Kalk said the department has been discussing creation of a police museum for years but that in the past the idea never got off the ground. He said he decided to pursue it after he attended a retired police officers function and spoke with a 98-year-old former police sergeant who had wonderful stories to tell.

'We'll Lose Those Voices'

"I thought to myself, 'We will lose these voices if we don't get started now,' " Kalk said. "We've got lots of historical stuff sitting around downtown. It doesn't do any good to put it in a warehouse. It's great for the public to see."

The other proposals for rehabilitation of the property are from commercial developers.

The Jacmar Companies is proposing to build a 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot restaurant next to the station and to renovate the building for office space.

And the plan by H. T. Greene & Associates would provide a permanent home for a folk ensemble that has been working out of leased or donated space in at least five Los Angeles locations for the last 25 years. A spokesman for the troupe said the dance company had not committed itself to the project, but that company officials hoped to secure about two-thirds of the police station for rehearsal and office space and for storage of the troupe's more than 3,000 ethnic costumes.

The H. T. Greene proposal is to build 80 to 100 housing units in two buildings flanking the station, a parking structure and 2,500 square feet of retail space.

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