Historic & Vacant
A rare historic property sale in the heart of South Pasadena.
By Marina Khrustaleva
The South Pasadena School District is selling its facilities at 1020 El Centro Street through a conditional purchase procedure in order to move to a modern office building next door. The historic structure built as El Centro Elementary School in 1928 was designed by the prominent local firm, Marsh, Smith & Powell. The school bell tower (seen in front of the building on the photo from the South Pasadena Public Library Collection) was removed in 1949 due to earthquake requirements. The historic bell was cast in 1889 for the very first school at this location.
The L-shaped School District facilities consist of a narrow office building along El Centro Street, and an auditorium along Fairview Avenue. The elegant proportions of the arcade and the perspective portal with elaborate brickwork bring to mind the early Lombardian Renaissance, which was a favorite style of Norman Foote Marsh, a local master architect. Lucile Lloyd, a muralist and stained-glass maker whose work has been recently remembered in several publications and exhibitions, designed the auditorium ceiling.
Because this building is a part of the Mission West Historic Business District designated by the National Register of Historic Places, it has to be preserved and adapted for a new use. A creative developer is provided many opportunities by a lot occupying the whole block between El Centro and Mission. For years this lot has been used for the annual Colors Festival, Farmers Market parking, and film crew accommodation.
According to the Specific Plan, which has been going through a lengthy update procedure since 2017, this lot is a potential space for “responsible infill development” that can boost economic, social and cultural activities in the area. The rendering proposed by Moule & Polyzoides, the Specific Plan consultants, shows this block with the preserved historic building, new three-story mixed-used structures around the perimeter, and a tree-shaded public plaza inside. The bids for the site purchase will be accepted through June 25 at spusdrfp.com.
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