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Pasadena Proposal for Senior Housing Undergoes Revisions


PASADENA — Plans for 44 units of senior citizen housing in the city's old police station--an integral part of the $50.5-million Marengo block project--are being reworked.

The 44 units were the only affordable-income apartments planned for a 394-unit project.

The California Housing Rehabilitation Program in May turned down a $1.3-million loan to the Janss Corp., which planned a $6-million renovation of the former Hall of Justice to convert it into low-income, senior citizen housing.

Since then, the Santa Monica-based development company and city planners have been trying to rearrange the project, which was approved by the city directors in January.

"It's a tough problem," said Marsha Rood, an administrator with the city's Housing and Development Department. "The question we're going to be asking is, without any money from the state, is (rehabilitation of the police building) financially feasible?"

Max Nardoni, Janss' manager for the project, said any new housing proposal would be "a big change in the scope" of the project. The rest of the project includes 350 newly constructed units in nine buildings.

"We were disappointed that we didn't get the loan, but we're used to dealing with things like this," he said. "Part of being a developer is always solving problems."

The project failed to qualify for state funding under guidelines that changed this year, requiring that rehabilitation not cost more than new construction, Nardoni said.

Because of the extensive demolition work needed on the police building interior, costs of renovation are higher than building, he said. The old Hall of Justice, built in 1930 and designed by architect Joseph J. Blick, is one of 14 structures within the Civic Center District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Among the alternatives Janss has been considering, Nardoni said, are 30 senior housing units within the Hall of Justice; 24 units elsewhere in the project, and conversion of the police building to lofts to provide work and living space for artists. The company expects to have a new proposal to the city next week.

The city was expected to contribute $1.3 million toward the senior housing. But if the number of units is reduced to 24, the city contribution would be lower and the money could be spent on less expensive housing projects elsewhere, City Director Rick Cole said.

"We don't like to do these kind of deals anymore," Cole said. But he added that the total project will bring 1,000 residents downtown and preserve a historical structure.

The 60-year-old former police station building is part of the ambitious $50.5-million Marengo block development project. The city-owned trapezoidal site was sold to Janss early this year for $6.9 million. It is bounded by Holly and Walnut streets and Marengo Avenue and the Santa Fe Railway tracks next to Memorial Park.

Besides the 350 units, the development includes a two-level underground parking structure and 9,000 square feet of retail space.

Janss began work on the project more than two years ago and received approval in January from the Board of Directors despite objections from the city's Endowment Advisory Commission and the new citizens group, Pasadena Century Club.

Members of both groups said the city should not sell the property but should establish a 50-50 partnership with Janss. The cost of rehabilitating the police building for housing was too high and the city money could be better spent elsewhere, they said.

"It's kind of what we thought would happen; it's not surprising," said Endowment Advisory Commission member Sally Mosher about the state denial of funding. "But we're not going to stand around and say, 'We told you so.' "

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