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Could Popular Center Sale Halt Redevelopment Agency Move?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, December 21, 2009, at 10:40AM
Popular Center Eric Richardson [Flickr]

The Community Redevelopment Agency occupies six stories in the 1902 Popular Center, but plans to move to City West.

Would the Community Redevelopment Agency's plan to move its central office out of the Historic Core be altered if a new owner took over the building it has occupied since 1980?

The CRA board approved the move last Thursday, but not before Allen Gross of Neighborhood Efforts appeared to tell the body that he has agreed to purchase the Popular Center, located at 354 S. Spring, but will only be able to move forward if he can convince the agency to stay.

In its report to the board, the CRA gave a laundry list of faults found in the 1902 structure. The air conditioning and heat are faulty, the elevators have a habit of stopping not quite at a floor, and the poor state of the floors is leading to workers' compensation claims.

Gross said Sunday that all of these are things that could be remedied. "That would be incorporated in the tenant improvements," he said. Gross wants to lower the agency's rent, undercutting what it would spend in its proposed home in City West's Garland Center.

Even that may not be enough to make the deal happen. Gross said that CRA interim CEO Calvin Hollis told him on Thursday that arrangements were too far along to change. One rumor is that the Garland Center move is being pushed as part of a plan to eventually combine the CRA with either the Housing Department or the Community Development Department, both of which are located in the building at 1200 W. 7th. Both, though, are slated to move to the City's Figueroa Plaza complex, in 2013 and 2023 respectively.

If the CRA does go through with its move, Neighborhood Efforts will likely back out of its plan to purchase the structure. CRA occupies six floors in the building, and its departure would leave it almost empty above the ground floor. "Once a building goes vacant, it's really hard to rehab it and bring it back online," said Gross.

Neighborhood Efforts is currently finishing up construction on the Blackstone apartment building, at 9th and Broadway. The company acquires and restores historic buildings.

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