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Pasadena's historic YWCA could be redevelopment victim

January 16, 2012 |  4:17 pm


Photo: Built in 1921, Pasadena's YWCA sits vacant.

One of the grand buildings erected during Pasadena’s ambitious City Beautiful Movement in the 1920s may become a victim of the state’s decision to dismantle redevelopment agencies statewide.

The three-story building with the red-tiled roof and arched doorways served as a YWCA for decades, part of an architectural era in which grand public structures were embraced as essential ingredients to a community's success.

But after a wealthy Hong Kong businesswoman bought the property 14 years ago, the refuge that once offered patrons a swimming pool, gymnasium and library is now boarded up and empty.

City officials invoked eminent domain last year to take control of the long-neglected 1921 structure but now lack the redevelopment funds needed to restore the building, leaving its future uncertain.

A Feb. 22 court hearing will determine what the city must pay previous owners Trove Investment Corp. to take final possession of the building. Officials have placed $6.5 million in a court-managed escrow account, an amount based on a previous appraisal of the building, City Manager Michael Beck said.

But the dismantling of city redevelopment agencies in the state’s belt-tightening efforts leaves actual restoration work in doubt.

“We were contemplating that we would do the restoration work and then potentially lease the property, but we aren’t going to have the resources for that,” Beck said.

A call for proposals could go out as early as this summer, he added. Plans would require City Council approval.

As one of 11 properties in the Civic Center area listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the YWCA falls under the protection of federal preservation guidelines.

“Ideally, it should be restored and used for some sort of civic or public purpose,” said Ann Scheid, an architectural historian. “It should remain as a contributor to the whole idea of what a civic center represents.”

The city’s fiscal difficulties suggest a different path, however.

“People have suggested senior housing. People have suggested a City Hall annex. I think the marketplace will help dictate what it becomes, because we need private money to make this work,” said Councilman Terry Tornek.


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Photo: Built in 1921, Pasadena's YWCA sits vacant. Credit:  Bret Hartman / For The Times