Ambassador College parcel purchased by City Ventures for town houses

A long-delayed real estate development on the site of the former Ambassador College in Pasadena has been revived by the sale of a 10-acre portion of the campus to a builder that plans to start construction on housing in 2011.

City Ventures bought the property on New Year's Day for about $15 million from New York hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, which had foreclosed on the previous owners in 2008. Santa Ana-based City Ventures plans to develop the site following plans previously approved in principle by the city.

Set to begin construction early next year is the first phase of a 70-unit town house complex along Orange Grove Boulevard that could be valued at as much as $140 million on completion, said Craig Atkins, chairman of City Ventures. A historic mansion and 27 existing apartments would remain on the site, but former classrooms and offices dating to the 1960s would be razed.

The first 10 or so town houses, priced at about $1.5 million apiece, would be completed by late 2011. Atkins said he believed there would be a market for new luxury housing in the area by then. Owners of homes in affluent neighborhoods to the west may want to scale down and move to the edge of Old Pasadena.

"Residents will be able to walk to downtown Pasadena and still be in a quaint, upscale neighborhood," Atkins said.

City Ventures' property is part of a parcel known as Ambassador West, which lies on Orange Grove between Green Street and Del Mar Boulevard. It was part of a controversial larger plan to add hundreds of housing units and thousands of square feet of commercial space on and around the former religious college's campus.

A senior housing complex proposed on another portion of Ambassador West was scrapped. The owner of that site, Sunrise Senior Living, is trying to sell the property, said John Poindexter, the city's planning-division manager.

Development at the Ambassador site has been approved in principle, Poindexter said, but City Ventures must face Pasadena's design review process before construction can begin.

The Ambassador Auditorium and other key campus structures on 13 acres east of City Ventures' property were purchased by Harvest Rock Church and Maranatha High School in 2004.

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