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Constance Hotel Restoration to Kick Off Colorado at Lake Project in Pasadena

Pasadena Star News, Posted: 10/17/2010

PASADENA – Despite concerns about increased traffic and diminished air quality, city staffers will urge the Planning Commission to approve a developer’s $76 million plan to renovate the historic Constance Hotel.

The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers on developer Park Place Commercial’s two-phase, block-long, mixed-use proposal for 880 to 940 E. Colorado Boulevard, just east of Lake Avenue.

“The (Environmental Impact Report) determined that impacts on traffic and transportation and air quality will be significant and unavoidable even after incorporation of mitigation measures,” according to a city staff report. “Impacts to all other resource areas were determined to be less than significant with proposed mitigations.”

If the proposal sails through the Planning Commission and City Council, restoration of the historic eight-story hotel should begin by the end of the year, an attorney for the developer said this past week.

Besides restoration of the Constance, most recently a senior care facility, Park Place Commercial plans to renovate storefronts along Colorado, construct a three-story parking garage, add on to the back of the hotel and construct a six-story office building with underground parking, according to city documents.

“The total gross area of all proposed uses is 231,711 square feet,” according to the staff report.

Because the plan requires more parking that would be available as currently designed, overflow tenants will be able to park across the street at 2 N. Lake, officials said.

Park Place Commercial attorney Richard McDonald said changes in the initial proposal allow the project to preserve “all the historic retail frontage on businesses along Colorado Boulevard, and more of the historic courtyard adjacent to the hotel lobby,” he said.

A handful of small businesses owners on the 900 block of East Colorado still leasing spaces on a month-to-month basis will have to move out, probably before the end of the year, McDonald said.

One of them is Sue Balderama, who with her husband Phil has run Taste of Bangkok for 20 years. The couple has started looking for new premises.

“We have to move, and that’s a fact,” Sue Balderama said. “We’re looking now, and we still want to be in business in Pasadena, but it’s hard to get anywhere in this area. Right now we’re making it, surviving. But we’re asking if the city can help us get another location. We’ve been here longer than anyone. After 20 years we deserve that.”

Even if ends up displacing her, Balderama believes the project will be “good for the city.”

“It’s going to be a landmark, and I’m happy it’s going to be beautiful, and tourists will come,” she said, adding that she hopes the restaurant can move back when the project is complete.

Local preservation group Pasadena Heritage is “enthusiastic” about the hotel’s restoration, said Executive Director Sue Mossman, particularly with the changes in the plans that call for keeping and opening the courtyard as a paseo.

“And we owe gratitude to the city for encouraging further exploration of the one-story buildings attached to the hotel, which were assumed to have lost all their integrity,” she said. “But it was discovered there is historic fabric remaining under the stucco, which was a huge surprise and great news.”

McDonald said the developers will likely apply for national historic designation for the renovated hotel, which probably will be called “The New Constance Hotel.”

Most recently it was known as the Pasadena Manor, an assisted living facility for about 160 or so residents who were relocated when the previous property owner, Jacob Friedman of Ruchel Enterprises, sold the hotel and businesses on the block in 2007.

Funding for the $11.1 million hotel restoration will come from Recovery Zone Facilities Bonds, McDonald said, adding that there is “no state, federal or city money in the project.”

“There’s a misperception that \ is a subsidy or cash grant,” he said. “It’s a private bond financed by us, fully secured. All it does is give a federal government waiver for the tax on the interest, basically to facilitate private companies issuing private bonds to investors – to make it enticing.”

Gina Tleel, executive director of the South Lake Business Association, said officials there are in “full support” of the entire project.

“In this economy … people want to see things happen,” said Tleel.

Park Place Commercial is a subsidiary of Arcadia-based Singpoli Pacific LLC. The company lists among its other projects: the Beijing International Convention Center; the People’s Great Hall, Beijing, China; and several five-star hotels and clubs in China. The company owns 2 N. Lake Avenue and leases to the Star-News at 911 East Colorado Boulevard.

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