City officials, neighbors and soon-to-be residents marked the dawn of a new era Thursday for a Pasadena street corner once plagued by crime, but now transformed into a safe, secure and beautiful home to 21 families.
A liquor store decried as a public nuisance by residents, police and officials alike has given way to a handsome new low- and moderate-income condominium complex.
Councilman Victor Gordo, whose district contains the project, was joined by Police Chief John Perez, as well as delighted neighborhood residents and thrilled home-owners for a ceremonial grand opening of the new condominium homes at the corner of Summit Avenue and Orange Grove Boulevard.
The units have all been sold already, and the owners are eager to move in, turning the building into their home.
They won’t have to wait much longer. The move-in date is scheduled for Aug. 13, according to the developer, Heritage Housing Partners.
“This is a great day. What a great day for the neighborhood,” Gordo said.
“This is not just an affordable housing project. It’s a public safety project. It’s an economic development project,” he said. “It’s an improvement in our city in general.”
For decades, until 2016, Andy’s liquor store stood at the corner. It long attracted crime and public safety issues such as public drinking, drug dealing and prostitution, according to city and police officials.
“As police officers out here for these decades, this has been a problematic area for a long time,” Pasadena Interim Police Chief John Perez said. “We’ve seen some of the tragedies, some of the things that have happened, and what’s happening to the quality of life for neighbors over the last few years. It’s improved dramatically. What we see right now is incredible. This place is a change for our community, the quality of life, the neighborhood quality of life, the business quality of life for people everywhere. This is a change.”
Police previously reported 358 responses at the corner in the five years leading up to liquor store’s demolition .
“I’m looking forward to what’s coming from here, the type of neighborhood we’re going to develop in the years to come,” the chief said. “So from the police department, we thank you.”
Gordo congratulated the local community for their contributions.
“I say everyone here give themselves a hand for whatever hand you had to make this happen.”
Some in attendance, like neighbor Terry Macquarrie, had more than just a figurative hand in it.
City officials credited her with being a driving force in the project. She joined with other neighbors and city officials to take sledgehammers to the old liquor store, as well as dump out booze, at a victory celebration marking the closure of the business two years ago.
“It’s amazing. It’s really amazing. It took a long time and there was a long time when we thought [it] was not going to happen,” McQuarrie said. “It’s phenomenal. We’re so excited and we’re thrilled. It’s a huge improvement and a wonderful asset to the neighborhood.”
“We don’t have people sitting around drinking right here on this spot anymore. We don’t have fights in the alley like we used to. So there’s a lot less of that kind of activity that was going on — the drinking, the drugs and the prostitution — when we moved in, and it’s not happening,” she said. “Huge difference.”
The beige, three-story, stucco complex, with accents of brick facing and an artistic metal gate at the entrance facing Orange Grove Boulevard contains 14 low-income units and seven moderate-income units, Heritage Housing Executive Director Charles Loveman Jr. said.
All have three bedrooms, except for a single two-bedroom unit, he added.
“And I think at around 75 percent of the buyers are Pasadena residents,” Loveman said. “That’s impressive.”
Gordo said the road to Thursday was a long one.
“We started out trying to change the law at the state level to address liquor stores. We almost had it and then the alcohol and tobacco industry came out and shut the door on us,” he said. “So we came back and decided to address it locally, he said. “This has been a team effort.”
Gordo recognized the support the project had received from fellow Councilmember Margaret McAustin, who was in attendance. Her husband, John, is Board President for the developer, Heritage Housing Partners.
Gordo also saluted Richard Bruckner, Pasadena’s former planning director, who in the audience Thursday.
Heritage Housing Vice President of Operations Tim Sales said the city’s help, as well as that of Pasadena Water and Power, were vital in getting the project completed. PWP General Manager Gurcharan Bawa was at the event.
The interest has been overwhelming, with multiple backup buyers lines up for each of the 21 units.
Pasadena Housing Department Director Bill Huang also commended all those involved in the project.
“This is a really tremendous project,” he said. “This is the second nuisance liquor store that was replaced with affordable home ownership, and affordable housing really has a real benefit and a real uplift to the community.”
Rita and Mohammed Rahman say they’re looking forward to making their new home with their 20-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.
“I am ready to move in,” Rita Rahman said. “My kids are excited. My daughter is going to USC this year, and it’s close to here.”
“I’m very happy to get it,” she said.