Vintage Police Station in Highland Park Could Find Home in Show Biz

Times Staff Writer

The 1920s Los Angeles police station house in Highland Park--now a popular film location for make-believe cops and robbers--may find a permanent career in the entertainment business.

A committee of city officials and local residents last week decided to consider four proposals, including one to convert the now-vacant, 59-year-old Northeast Station into a live theater and restaurant and two others to purchase the classic building and lease it for movie and television filming.

But Robert Horii of the city engineering office's real estate division has recommended that the committee select a less flashy but more lucrative proposal to build offices, stores and fast food outlets in and around the landmark station house in the 6000 block of York Boulevard.

The 15-member committee was formed earlier this year to find an investor to purchase and preserve the city-owned property. Local preservationists and the city hope that at least one of the four firms can afford to pay the property's estimated $700,000 market value and spend an estimated $2 million to repair and upgrade the building to comply with modern earthquake and fire codes.

Additionally, committee members have said they prefer a commercial use of the property that would allow public access to the Highland Park landmark.

Last week, the committee rejected three other proposals.

Turned down were plans for a senior citizens home, a school for handicapped children and an offer by a nonprofit corporation that said it would lend construction tools there. A plan to convert the station into apartments was withdrawn before the review.

The two-story brick building was entered last year in the National Register of Historic Properties. It has also become a city historical landmark since the police Northeast Division moved its headquarters to a newer facility on San Fernando Road in 1983.

Last 1920s Station House

Because it is Los Angeles' last surviving station built in the 1920s, the building is much in demand by motion picture and television production companies. Reservations for filming there must be made months in advance, according to the city's motion picture coordination office.

During the filming of a scene in the movie "Secret Admirer" there last fall, Orion Pictures location manager Brian Haynes described the building as "the quintessential police station."

"It's hard to find that look these days," he said.

The one plan recommended by the city's real estate division was submitted by Maurice R. Chasse, who said he would buy the 1.3-acre parcel from the city for $725,000, rehabilitate it and build 34,000 square feet of attached commercial and retail space that would match the basic character of the two-story brick building.

'Heritage Plaza'

"I'd call it Heritage Plaza," Chasse said. "I'd like to put in strip commercial that will coordinate with the original building on the back and two sides.

American Venture Associates--another firm to be considered--has offered the city $250,000 for the property. It plans to remodel the interior for courtroom and government scenes in motion picture and television filming.

Real to Reel Locations has offered $200,000, also planning to lease the building for filming.

Landmark Lane Ltd. has offered $700,000 to convert the structure to a live theater serving food and drinks. The company operates three bed and breakfast homes in Southern California, and is interested in entering the theater business, a company spokesman said.

Asked for More Information

The projects that were rejected by the committee either failed to include a price in their offers or did not provide adequate financial and project information, Horii said. The four firms to be considered have been asked to provide the committee with additional proof of financial ability and project experience by Nov. 5.

The committee, headed by Los Angeles City Councilman Arthur K. Snyder, is advisory. Snyder said Wednesday that he will resign his council seat Friday, but an aide said Snyder will remain on the ad hoc committee even after he leaves office.

One of the projects will be recommended to the Los Angeles City Council for final approval, but it is unknown when a decision will be reached, said Conrad Corral, a Snyder aide.

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