City Buys Commercial Property to Develop Playhouse District's First Pocket Park

Published : Monday, January 8, 2018 | 6:22 AM

Banner Bank

The City of Pasadena is in the final stages of purchasing commercial property at 717 E. Union Street in the heart of the Playhouse District with plans to develop a pocket park at the location.

The park will be the first of its kind in the Central District of Pasadena.

The City Council approved the acquisition of the building back in October which currently is being leased and operated as a branch of the Washington state-based Banner Bank and an additional tenant.

“The Playhouse District Association has become aware of the City’s pending purchase of the Banner Bank site and intentions to create a new public park at that location. While we hope to retain Banner Bank elsewhere within the Playhouse District, we welcome the site’s unique opportunity to create a new future for our part of Pasadena,” said Playhouse District Association Executive Director Brian Wallace.

The property currently has two tenants, according to the report. Banner Bank has a lease for their offices and a lease amendment is currently being negotiated and is expected that the revised lease will terminate on October 31, 2018.

A purchase agreement was executed on October 24, 2017 for the acquisition of the property in the amount of $3,155,000, and the escrow deposit of $300,000 was wired to escrow.

The funding for the purchase will come from the Residential Impact Fees- Central District.

The Central District portion of this fund has an approximate balance of $7.96 million and Escrow is expected to close on January 14, 2018.

“The property where our branch is at right now is leased. We know that the current owner sold the property and that it’s in the process of closing with the new owner,” said Kelly McPhee, Banner Bank VP of Communications and Public Relations.

Despite the report’s specific information detailing the purchase agreement with the City, McPhee says the new owner is not the City of Pasadena.

City officials were not available on Friday to respond to questions on this point.

Andalucia Apartments Community Manager Angela Romero sais she thinks the idea is “wonderful.”

“I know it was supposed to happen some time ago and I think it will benefit our community by bringing the residential community into a commercial area,” Romero said.

Last year the Playhouse District Association formed a special advisory committee to engage with the city on a planning effort.

In a series of public meetings, Wallace and his staff distributed prompts of some ideas that detailed the district’s background, assets within it, and opportunities that the community can take advantage of as the district grows over time.

One issue that stands out is the desire to bring in park features, according to Wallace.

“That’s a real particular issue here. We have a lot of residents moving into the district and certainly a lot of residents already living around the district in the downtown area and it’s already been established that there’s no open space — no place for them to gather, no place for business owners and workers to go take lunch,” Wallace explained in a previous story in Pasadena Now.

The preliminary project timeline for all phases is two to three years, according to the city’s report. An early estimate from engineering staff is that the total project cost above the land acquisition is $2 to $3 million.

The final cost will depend on the park’s design and its amenities, A full project description will be provided as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Capital Improvement Budget.

“As we expressed to City Council some weeks ago, we are hopeful that this will begin implementing a longer-term vision that includes a range of public spaces connected by active streets, alleys and paseos, and supported by an efficient and effective parking and transportation solution for our growing district,” said Wallace.

City staff will continue to pursue additional locations such as the one at El Molino and Union, the report says.

“The PDA looks forward to working with our stakeholders, City leaders and staff, and the increasing number of district residents on this exciting opportunity to create a new public park in the heart of the Playhouse District,” said Wallace.

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