Historic restoration of Pasadena’s landmark YWCA building could come as part of a package development deal that includes an underground parking garage and a new building in front of City Hall.
The city is seeking proposals to refurbish the YWCA, which was designed by pioneering female architect Julia Morgan and built in 1921. The building stood vacant and decaying on the corner of Marengo Avenue and Holly Street for 14 years before officials seized the property through eminent domain and paid the former owners $8.3 million earlier this year.
Developers who bid to lease or buy the YWCA will have the option of proposing plans for a commercial structure on an undeveloped 43,700 square-foot lot across Holly Street, directly in front of Pasadena City Hall.
The three-story YWCA, one of 11 Civic Center properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, measures about 40,000 square feet and includes a 10,000 square-foot parking lot.
To address the need for increased parking in the area, the city’s call for proposals suggests two subterranean parking structures connected by a tunnel below Holly Street.
Proposals should not rely on financing from the city, but officials haven’t ruled out offering limited public funding, according to the document.
City leaders say saving the long-neglected YWCA is their top priority, but allowing for other development should make a complex and expensive project more attractive to private investors.
“The YWCA is a tough nut by itself, being an historical site in need of repair. The notion was that a package would generate more developer interest,” City Councilman Terry Tornek said.
Plans for the area, Tornek added, “always contemplated development on these sites and additional parking, so this is an opportunity for a real home run.”
City officials are leading public walkthroughs inside the YWCA from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday and from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturday. The tours directly precede meetings at City Hall to gauge public preferences for the future of the YWCA.
City Project Manager Dave Klug said the process is intended to help developers craft proposals that will find public support.
“We’re not predetermining what these buildings could be. We want to see what the market brings us,” Klug said. “The meetings will help [developers] know what the community is thinking.”
Following a Sept. 24 deadline for proposals, the city will appoint a review panel to evaluate the bids and advise the City Council on a final development decision.
Sue Mossman, executive director of the historic preservation group Pasadena Heritage, praised the city for getting the public involved from the start.
“The message is clear that the city and the community care very much about this building, and there’s a high priority on doing what’s right for the building as well as finding a new use that’s going to work,” said Mossman.
Morgan’s work also includes the Hearst Castle, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner building and several other YWCA buildings.
City officials are requiring that proposals adhere to federal Secretary of the Interior guidelines for historic building restoration.
Proposals for the empty lot across from City Hall will surely face public scrutiny.
Preservationists fought City Hall earlier this year over plans for All Saints Church to expand with new buildings along Euclid Avenue, directly behind Pasadena City Hall. Council members approved a scaled-down version the plan.
Mossman said she won’t have an opinion about a new building until one is proposed, but pointed out that the 1923 Bennett Plan for Pasadena’s downtown contemplated a building on the site.
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