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Pasadena considers converting historic YWCA into boutique hotel

Officials are negotiating a deal to restore the 91-year-old vacant building, designed by one of the country's first female architects, in the city's Civic Center.

June 17, 2013|By Joe Piasecki, Los Angeles Times
  • Pasadena officials are negotiating to turn the vacant YWCA headquarters, at 78 N. Marengo Ave. in Pasadena, into a hotel using eminent domain. The building was designed in 1921 by Julia Morgan, one of California's first independent female architects.
Pasadena officials are negotiating to turn the vacant YWCA headquarters,… (BRET HARTMAN, Bret Hartman…)

Pasadena officials are negotiating a proposal to convert the city's long-vacant former YWCA building into a 150-room boutique hotel, the city announced last week.

Completed in 1921 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the three-story building near Pasadena City Hall was designed by Julia Morgan, believed to be the country's first independently practicing female architect.

Morgan also designed Hearst Castle and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner building.

The city invoked eminent domain to acquire the former YWCA from a Hong Kong investor for $8.3 million in April 2012 after it stood vacant at Marengo Avenue and Holly Street for 14 years.

Officials estimated a price tag of as much as $10 million to restore the dilapidated 40,000-square-foot building, which had sustained significant fire and water damage to its interior while boarded up.

The city is considering a long-term lease to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurant Group, a San Francisco company that specializes in boutique hotels. The company also operates Hotel Palomar in Westwood and Hotel Wilshire, near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Financial and other details of the plan, which is subject to a 120-day exclusive negotiation agreement, will remain confidential until a contract goes before the City Council for approval, according to the city.

The Kimpton plan was one of six proposals submitted to the city in July, each involving reuse of the building as a hotel, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said.

Sue Mossman, executive director of the preservation group Pasadena Heritage and a member of the team that evaluated proposals, said the project attempts to balance fiscal constraints with the historic integrity of the former YWCA.

"From a preservation point of view, the [Kimpton] team is strong; the approach is right. There's a long way to go from here, but I feel confident of those two things," Mossman said.

The city hopes the deal will create economic activity in the Civic Center district while preserving the historical importance of the building, officials said.

"This building is a treasure in the city's architectural legacy," Bogaard said. "City Hall is very anxious to have it done extremely well."

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