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‘Terminated’: Glendale Unified plan for property exchange comes to official end

The office building on the corner of Jackson Street and Colorado Street in Glendale.
A proposal between the Glendale Unified School District and real estate firm Carmel Partners to swap properties, including 425 E. Colorado St., above, was terminated on Tuesday afternoon.
(File Photo)

A proposed property exchange idea that dates back at least five years between Glendale Unified and a real estate company to replace the school district’s aging headquarters saw its latest, most serious proposal die Tuesday afternoon.

Jennifer Freemon, board president, read a roughly 300-word statement during a board meeting, saying an agreement between the district and real estate firm Carmel Partners was quashed.

“Carmel failed to complete the exchange transaction as required by the exchange agreement and, therefore, the exchange agreement has been terminated, and the district is in the process of seeking reimbursement of its costs from Carmel,” Freemon said.

No discussion took place after the statement was read as board members moved on to the next agenda item.

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Before heading into closed session, however, board member Greg Krikorian expressed frustration with a process that needed an affirmative vote by Glendale City Council to be ratified, but the council rejected the plan 3-1 this past December, citing traffic- and population-saturation issues.

“We’re exhausted, and we’ve exhausted every plan,” Krikorian said. “We’ve been working since 2012.”

Glendale Unified and Carmel originally agreed to swap properties in August 2017, with adjustments and amendments to the agreement added as recently as June 2018.

The district voted to exchange its current 38,000-foot, four-story headquarters built in 1972, located at 223 N. Jackson St., for a six-story building owned by Carmel located at 425 E. Colorado St.

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With the exchange, the district would have received a building that is 12 years newer than the existing one, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and up to current building codes. It also has space for expansion and additional parking.

Glendale Unified’s headquarters currently lacks fire sprinklers and earthquake retrofitting. The district’s parking lot has 155 spaces, while the Colorado Street property and its garage would have provided 200 additional spots.

Stephen Dickinson, the school district’s chief business and financial officer, said the lack of parking has led Glendale Unified to reach agreements with local businesses and entities, such as the First United Methodist Church and Ralphs, for additional parking.

“I would estimate it’s half a dozen [contracts] and still our needs are not met,” Dickinson said.

While Glendale Unified would have received a new headquarters, Carmel would have turned 2.39 acres of the district’s 3.42-acre existing property into a 207-unit residential development in an already crowded portion of Glendale.

Daily High School, which is located on the property, would have remained untouched, while Carmel would have added a small park.

Without council approval, Freemon said Carmel did not meet its commitment and Glendale Unified will seek reimbursement of $250,000, though Krikorian said the district had already spent $500,000 in December.

“Because Carmel failed to complete the exchange transaction, the exchange agreement allows the district to seek reimbursement from Carmel of its cost associated with the exchange agreement,” Freemon said.

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Less than five years earlier, the City Council approved another Carmel Partners project, the Altana Luxury Apartments, with two buildings and 507 units, located roughly 1 mile away from Glendale Unified’s headquarters.

A city spokesperson did not return calls from the News-Press, while Carmel Partners did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.

Stuck with its old headquarters, Glendale Unified is faced with the prospect of raising at least $40 million to cover renovation costs.

“C’mon, we don’t have $40 million. We don’t have any funds like that to upgrade our facilities,” Krikorian said. “There’s nothing in the works now.”

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