Fixing Up the Lincoln Triangle : Pasadena: Construction to start in November on 29 townhouses; existing homes are being rehabilitated, and a 98-year-old Victorian cottage is saved.


The Lincoln Triangle in Northwest Pasadena, one of the city's oldest working-class neighborhoods, is sprucing up, with city help.

After a three-year delay, construction will begin in November on 29 townhouses. Since January, a $250,000 rehabilitation program for homes in the area has been under way. And a 98-year-old Victorian cottage, saved from the wrecking ball, will be renovated.

Meanwhile, Habitat for Humanity, the national organization that builds houses for the poor, is building two homes nearby at the corner of Cypress Avenue and Maple Street.

"What I'm seeing happen here is this neighborhood is starting to turn around," said Phyllis Mueller, Pasadena's housing administrator.

The Lincoln Triangle is bounded by Orange Grove Boulevard, Fair Oaks Avenue and the intersection of the Foothill and Ventura freeways. It now contains about 100 houses. But it was a larger neighborhood at the turn of the century, said Claire Bogaard, executive director of the preservation group Pasadena Heritage.

Employees who worked in Orange Grove Boulevard mansions lived in small Victorian cottages that now dot the Lincoln Triangle. "It's the last remaining enclave of the old neighborhood," Bogaard said.

But the neighborhood shrank after being chopped by the Foothill Freeway and by large businesses that put offices where the Victorian cottages once stood. Now, weed- and trash-filled empty lots alternate with the remaining cot tages and newer, boxy apartment buildings.

Three years ago, the city wanted to help revive the area by offering a city-owned 3.2-acre site at the corner of Orange Grove Boulevard and Cypress Avenue for housing development. National Housing Consultants agreed to buy the land from the city and build 29 market-rate condominiums in a project called Cypress Grove Villas.

But lenders shied away because of the run-down neighborhood, Mueller said. The city's $250,000 rehabilitation program helped lessen lender uncertainty, she said, adding: "The lenders . . . wanted assurance this neighborhood was going to turn around."

Under the residential rehabilitation program, low-interest loans, direct grants or deferred loans are given to property owners for improvements.

In addition, the developers restructured the project to add seven units of affordable housing, making it less costly to build and more desirable to lenders under federal guidelines to fund low-income housing, said Yvonne Walkup, the city's project manager for the development.

Under the new development agreement approved by the Pasadena Board of Directors last week, the developers added a partner, DFE Developers Inc. They will pay the city $150,000 for the land, plus 15% of gross sales over $5.5 million when the condos are sold. In exchange, the city will lend $280,000--or $40,000 for each low-income unit--for the $4-million project.

The city's plans also include preservation of a two-story Victorian at 507 Cypress Ave. Developer Michael Lee planned to demolish the house and build four apartments on the site, but Bogaard and City Director Rick Cole intervened after they discovered that the Victorian was built in 1893 for Fred L. Ryder, a former Pasadena bicycle and auto dealer. The building is architecturally significant and may be designated a city cultural heritage landmark, Bogaard said.

The house is dilapidated now and is slipping off its foundation. But Bogaard said the interior contains original Victorian molding. A new foundation could make it last another 100 years, she said.

The city will now swap another parcel with Lee and find a developer to rehabilitate the Victorian and add two units of affordable housing in back.

"The importance of the house is that it reflects what was a working-class neighborhood before the turn of the century," Bogaard said. "There just aren't that many of those houses as old as that left."'

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