Pasadena Panel OKs New Plans for Marketplace

Times Staff Writer

Despite opposition from local cultural heritage groups, John Patrick Wilson's drastically changed set of plans for the $42-million shopping arcade that he wants to build in a historic downtown district has been approved in concept.

Wilson, a 46-year-old multimillionaire, was given the approval by the Community Development Committee on Thursday for his Pasadena Marketplace. Two weeks ago, Wilson had packed a committee meeting with about 150 supporters to try to force committee members to approve his new plans for the Marketplace, even though the members had never formally reviewed them.

Concept approval by the committee is the first of many city reviews necessary before Wilson can receive the final go-ahead for his project, touted as one of the largest developments ever undertaken in Pasadena.

Independent Consultants

After hiring two independent consultants to study Wilson's new plan, the committee voted to approve the revisions, but added 11 conditions that Wilson must meet. The developer had raised the ire of preservationists when he submitted designs that were substantially different from his original plan, which was approved last year.

Instead of restoring the old buildings--many of them built in the 1890s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places--Wilson now wants to gut the structures. Such groups as Pasadena Heritage and the city's Cultural Heritage Commission opposed any demolition of the interior walls of the buildings.

Wilson had attempted to railroad his revised plan past the committee at its last meeting, but members voted instead to hire consultants to review Wilson's financial and engineering plans for the Marketplace.

The consultants' reports, submitted to committee members Wednesday night, listed sales projections and employment estimates that differed substantially from Wilson's.

$57 Million in Sales

Keyser Marston Associates Inc., real estate development consultants, predicted that first-year sales at the Marketplace would total $57 million. Wilson had told the committee two weeks ago that his firm, Pasadena Marketplace Ltd., estimated first-year sales at $90 million. Wilson's staff had also told committee members that the shopping arcade would offer 2,882 entry-level jobs. Keyser Marston projected between 700 and 1,000 full-time jobs.

Wilson was asked to comment on the disparity between the two estimates during last week's meeting. "My project works with their figures," he replied.

The committee approved the project with a number of conditions, including a requirement that the developer put up financial guarantees to cover the costs of rebuilding the facades of the structures should they be damaged during construction. Wilson must also maintain the old City Hall building as a separate unit from the shopping arcade, and no demolition may take place until a structural system for maintaining the outside walls is approved by the city's Building Department.

Wilson was unusually subdued during Thursday's meeting. He voiced opposition to only one of the conditions, which prohibited a drive-through entrance to the mall on DeLacey Avenue. A decision on that provision was postponed pending further discussion.

Neither Pasadena Heritage nor the Cultural Heritage Commission voiced any opposition during Thursday's meeting, although representatives from both groups had spoken earlier against Wilson's plan to gut the buildings.

A few local shop owners, however did speak against Wilson's plan.

Margaret Schermerhorn, owner of the Espresso Bar on Raymond Avenue, criticized Wilson during the meeting, saying she was forced to call the police and the city Health Department over alleged violations of municipal ordinances that occurred during an earlier restoration project he undertook near her store.

"Is this man's company pulling some kind of scam when he asks your permission to gut the buildings for the Marketplace project? It's way too late for giving permission. Half of those buildings are already gutted," Schermerhorn said. "I hate seeing Old Town and its treasures, as I see myself, at the sewer end of John Wilson's Golden Movement."

Schermerhorn was referring to Wilson's Golden Movement Emporium, an auctioneering firm he owned in Santa Monica during the 1970s.

The Marketplace is designed to house a 40,000-square-foot Irvine Ranch Farmers Market, four movie theaters and upscale shops like Papagallo and Capezio. There will be skywalks between the buildings and three trolley cars circling the block bounded by Colorado Boulevard, Fair Oaks Avenue, Holly Street and DeLacey Avenue.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World