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City May Help Firm Buy, Renew Building : Redevelopment: Torrance gives tentative OK for Gascon Mar Ltd. to renovate downtown apartments company says detract from nearby project.


Torrance's Redevelopment Agency has tentatively agreed to give a development firm $1.95 million to purchase and renovate an apartment building that officials say is a blighting influence on a neighboring downtown redevelopment project.

Under the accord, developer Gascon Mar Ltd. would acquire the El Prado Apartments in an effort to make the three-story building compatible with its adjacent Historic Downtown Project, Gascon Mar partner Allan Mackenzie said.

Gascon Mar is in escrow with the property's owner, Damoder Reddy. The Redevelopment Agency, which is composed of the seven City Council members, will hold a public hearing on its agreement with Gascon Mar, probably in late May.

The Redevelopment Agency agreed in concept to the $1.95-million allocation at a Tuesday meeting.

The El Prado Apartments are crowded and poorly maintained, Torrance and Gascon Mar officials say. The building, which includes 26 apartment units and five street-level commercial businesses, occupies a prime location at the intersection of El Prado and Sartori avenues, the heart of Gascon Mar's downtown improvements.

The $44-million Historic Downtown Project will include 26,000 square feet of new retail space, a 375-space parking garage and three condominiums comprising 179 units. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

The dilapidated El Prado Apartments would look out of place in the new downtown, Mackenzie said.

"It projects an image of decay," he said.

If the allocation of Redevelopment Agency funds is approved, Gascon Mar will use the money to renovate the building, then hand over ownership of the property to Torrance in exchange for a 30-year lease. The lease would require that the new apartments be rented to low-income tenants. In addition, revenues collected by Gascon Mar in excess of net operating expenses would be paid to the city.

"Gascon Mar is not looking at this as a revenue venture," Mackenzie said.

Because of the costs involved in renovating the building, Mackenzie said, Gascon Mar looked to the Redevelopment Agency for assistance.

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