The offer was irresistible: Five adjacent historic homes on Pasadena’s oldest street were on the market Saturday for the first time in decades.
Lured by this unusual opportunity, throngs of people descended on the homes. Some were standing outside the properties at 9 a.m., waiting for real estate agents to open the doors.
Yet, many emerged with starkly different views of the properties, which had been shuttered for the last several years by their owner, the Worldwide Church of God. Some visitors saw an opportunity; others envisioned a money pit.
Asked what it would take to prompt an offer, Steve Herren, of Pasadena, wasted no time in replying: “tonight’s Lotto.”
The five homes were built between 1892 and 1911, and none lacked curb appeal. The least expensive was listed at nearly $1.1 million, with the priciest at $1.8 million; the Tournament of Roses Parade can be viewed from their front lawns.
The glitch is that many will probably require thousands of dollars of work on the inside, where paint needs to be stripped, wallpaper replaced and hardwood floors refinished.
Prompted by hundreds of invitations sent to top-producing real estate agents across town, a cavalcade of luxury cars rolled up to the homes.
The properties have been part of the church’s Ambassador College campus for the last 40 to 50 years. But the school closed in 1990, when students were transferred to the church’s Texas campus.
With the church in the midst of a financial downsizing, the decision was made to develop much of its 50-acre Pasadena property and move its headquarters elsewhere in Southern California. At the church’s request, the homes were granted historic status by the city, meaning that buyers could not change the facades. Other changes could be made, but some would have to be approved by the city — never an easy process.
“The saddest part of this is that they’re empty. There’s nothing sadder than an empty building,” said Bernard Schnippert, the director of finance and planning for the church, who once lived in one of the homes. “I get a great deal of pleasure knowing that someone will make this their home.”
The old Ambassador College campus is mostly deserted these days, but is still well tended to and resembles a botanical garden with its rolling lawns, old trees, fountains, koi ponds and numerous historic structures.
Current plans are to build more than 1,400 condominiums and other residences on the site. A draft environmental report on the project is due in the next month, but the development has already been controversial.
“We certainly think that housing is a good use and we certainly think that housing can be built there if appropriately designed and it’s a high level of quality and all that stuff,” said Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, the city’s main advocacy group for preservation. “But the numbers [of condominiums] still look too high to us.”
The fuss over the five homes was partially inspired by the fact they were designed by notable architects of their day and incorporated all sorts of unique features and cubbyholes.