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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / Big Plans for Art Center in Pasadena

Big Plans for Art Center in Pasadena

by Pasadena Independent
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The plan, which will modify Art Center’s “South Campus” development, will focus on turning the pre-existing structure at 1111 S. Arroyo into a central hub for students. - Photo by Terry Miller

The plan, which will modify Art Center’s “South Campus” development, will focus on turning the pre-existing structure at 1111 S. Arroyo into a central hub for students. – Photo by Terry Miller

By Nick Kipley

 

At Monday night’s meeting of the Pasadena city council, the Planning Commission, as well as representatives from Art Center College of Design, submitted a document that they think residents should be excited about.

Art Center’s “Predevelopment Plan Review,” the outline for a new 10-year master plan for the years 2017-2027, was submitted before the council and many believe that it will spur changes in a region of Pasadena sorely in need of revival.

The plan, which will modify Art Center’s South Campus development, will focus on turning the pre-existing structure at 1111 S. Arroyo into a central hub for students. The project is expected to unfold in two phases, ultimately creating a centralized “college quad-style” base around which student activities can be arranged.

The Planning Commission began the evening with a slideshow depicting how the structures of Art Center’s South Campus will be modified to unify the many properties that the school owns, and bring a “historic elevated bike track” theme, given that the elevated sections of bike path from the proposed turn-of-the-last-century Pasadena-to-Los Angeles route used to be located in that area.

Dr. Lorne Buchman, Art Center’s President, spoke of the development with great interest in creating a future in which Art Center is seen as more of a fixture of Downtown Pasadena rather than just a school that resides up in the distant hills. “It’s an incredibly exciting time in the college’s history,” he said. “We look forward … to a greater presence and partnership with the surrounding community. This is a plan conformed by our goal for great education. We want to ensure that our campuses are serving our issues and our greater interests.”

As for the location, south of Central Park and straddling the Gold Line, Dr. Buchman said, “This is about students and not just physical buildings,” specifically, “Our housing plans are about affordability. Some universities build housing to generate revenue. Our purpose is to help our students afford their education. This plan will activate an underused part of the city.”

Michael Maltzan, master plan architect for the project, said the new developments will be based on “Four Conceptual Pillars” which include: Place Making, Connection, Student Living and Sustainability. In response to this, Mayor Tornek asked about how much connectivity with the neighborhood the new project would be instilling: “It would appear there’s a lot of focus on the internal campus feel of the project.”

“We’re not building a fortress here?” Tornek asked.

In response, Maltzan said amusedly, “We’re building an anti-fortress.”

Talks of rooftop green spaces, multi-use areas for small concerts and impromptu student meet-ups, and a pedestrian foot-bridge over the Gold Line were mulled over as a way to help the council see how the plan would unify the large pieces of property that the South Campus takes up.

Councilmember Margaret McAustin asked about how affordable the housing rates would be for the center and if they would fall into what the city considers to be “affordable housing.” Although the details have not officially been worked out, McAustin’s questions were addressed by a Ms. Lauren Montgomery, who said that the student housing would “Not be market-rate housing,” yet certain rates for low-income students would be made available so that affordability would be upheld above all else. The project, Montgomery explained, was to create affordable living spaces for “a collaborative community that has never had student housing.”

Following the outline of these specifications, the city council was very pleased. “This is a really exciting and ambitious plan,” said McAustin. “For the first time it will integrate Art Center into the Pasadena community. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a plan as ambitious and exciting.”

Councilmember Steve Madison spoke of the planned development highly, “[Art Center is a] great neighbor and an important stakeholder in our community. Most of this master plan is focused on the South Campus which is very exciting.”

Councilmember Gene Masuda followed Madison in his praise for the project, saying that when he met with representatives from Art Center, “they went through all the buildings and … I’m looking forward to seeing this thing going forward.”

The quote that summed up the project’s scope, however, came from Art Center President Dr. Buchman when he said, “We model for our students the very values we wish they adopt.”

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