Pasadena project foreclosed

Times Staff Writer

An ambitious development project that included hundreds of condominiums, apartments and a senior housing complex on the former Ambassador College campus has been foreclosed, Pasadena officials said Tuesday.

The foreclosure encompassed most of the project’s 20 acres, one of the prime parcels of land in the city. The project had the support of historical preservationists and was viewed as a key component in the development of a long dormant section of Old Town Pasadena.

Ambassador West, as the project was called, was part of a larger plan to add hundreds of housing units and thousands of square feet of commercial space on and around the former campus.


Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said those other projects, including the “urban village” Westgate, will not be affected by the foreclosure and downplayed its immediate effect.

“I don’t see any particular critical need to develop on the property now [rather] than, say, five years from now,” Bogaard said. “Life will go on.”

The future of the landmark Ambassador site has been debated by residents for years.

The property, with lush gardens with fountains and manicured lawns, is dotted with well-kept period-revival mansions that were once part of “Millionaires’ Row” along Orange Grove Boulevard. It was owned for decades by the Worldwide Church of God.

The current plan won support from some homeowner groups and preservationists because they said it maintained the historic campus feel. Backers also said it provided needed housing near the bustling Colorado Boulevard shopping district and Gold Line light-rail line.

But critics said the project would worsen traffic in an area that has seen an explosion of mixed-use residential development in recent years.

Richard Bruckner, the city’s director of planning and development, said the foreclosure was a setback for the area, but he did not want the city to rush to find an alternative.

“We’d like to see quality development,” Bruckner said. “Even if it takes a little more time. This is one of the premier sites in all of Pasadena, with its access to Old Town. The landscape and the buildings have great history. There’s layers and layers of importance.”

Neither the owners of the land, whose identities haven’t been disclosed, nor project officials could be reached for comment.

The Sterling, a senior housing complex that was proposed on the site, has now been scrapped and its developer has returned deposits to potential tenants.

“The economic situation has changed and seniors are less interested,” said Sara Krueger, a spokeswoman for Sunrise Senior Living.

The company’s 5.7 acres of the Ambassador West territory was not part of the foreclosure. Krueger said it has not determined what to do with the property.

The project had been opposed by Harvest Rock Church, a nondenominational Christian congregation on the campus that was concerned that the plan was too big and would overshadow the Ambassador College’s celebrated architecture and landscaping, which includes a reflecting pool.

On Tuesday, news of the foreclosure was welcomed.

“We’re just glad it’s over,” said Doug Huse, general manager for the church. “We’re tired of it. This is a new beginning.”

Some resident groups were disappointed that the plan had failed. They said they will insist again that any future project on the land be sensitive to density and preservation issues.