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Posts Tagged ‘City of Alhambra’

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspacesby Barbara Beckley

Alhambra Preservation Group congratulates Mike McCollum on the beautiful restoration of one of Alhambra’s many historic structures.

Mike McCollum knows a great building – and its potential — when he sees it. “People value and appreciate restored buildings that have character – they have a human quality,” he explains.

As the successful attorney-owner of McCollum Counsel, which works with international and Chinese multi-national companies, Mike was looking for an office in Alhambra to be closer to his clients.

Alhambra.Road.Iona.Workspaces.McCollum“This building caught my eye,” he said, of the sprawling, single-story brick structure that has graced West Alhambra Road between Curtis and Electric Avenues since 1918. He knew right away its picturesque brickwork and multiple spaces with large windows looking out on a tree-lined residential street had “office potential.” Its location, near Huntington Drive and easy access to Los Angeles and other San Gabriel Valley communities was an added plus.

Lucky for the building – and Alhambra – Mike loves to restore vintage structures. As a high school student in Los Feliz, his first summer job was cataloging historic courthouses for a preservation group. He was hooked. Since then he’s made a hobby of refurbishing vintage buildings with his father and brother, restoring aging gems first in Angelino Heights and then in Silverlake, Hollywood, Echo Park and now Alhambra.

Why? “For a love of old things and history. And the satisfaction of being able to bring something back to life that has stood the test of time and restore it to again be beautiful and useful.”

So in 2015 Mike bought the building at 1500 West Alhambra Road and began researching its history. “I love this building’s history,” he says. With so many individual spaces, it housed flourishing neighborhood businesses for decades. Among the longest running were the HM Pease & Co. Grocery, opened in 1918, along with a drug store, fruit specialist, butcher shop, barber shop and tailor. Small businesses came and went, including in 1932 a carpet store; 1937 a beauty shop; 1941 a lawn mower store; 1946 an upholsterer; 1949 a drapery boutique; 1952 a variety store; 1954 a doll shop; 1956 a plastic products manufacturer and in 1964 a café, and Golden West Books publishing, which occupied the building up until the early 2000s.

Mike was also pleased to learn that during the Great Depression, the grocery store owner, Alhambra resident Howard M. Pease, organized the donation of more than 1.5 million loaves of bread and other supplies to local residents in need.

“Hidden treasures” were also discovered during the renovation process – a bunch of wires going into a back room looked like they had been put in after the Great Depression.  “I’m guessing it was probably a bookie joint,” he surmises.

Mike began the renovations in 2016. Using his own good taste and love of vintage architecture, he added skylights to open up sunny spaces, and exposed the original brickwork, original beams, and concrete to give the building a stylish, vintage/contemporary feel.

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspaces.2What’s the highlight of his reborn space? “All the beautifully preserved, and now exposed brick, and solid redwood beams. These beams shouldn’t be destroyed. We should be exposing and celebrating this rich beautiful wood. I love to see and celebrate the old brick, the wood and the concrete, and the new steel – the beauty of form and function.”

Work was completed this past summer. Mike threw a community party, in partnership with Brethren Shoes a new e-commerce company founded by an old friend, on September 9, 2018 celebrating his beautiful new Alhambra-based IONA Work Spaces. Mike chose to highlight Brethren as a nod to the original owner’s community service. “Brethren sells stylish shoes at reasonable prices — and for each pair they sell, they donate another pair to the homeless. Howard Pease would be pleased!” Mike adds.

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspaces.3“Everyone is always impressed with the space,” he says. “Warm. Inviting. Calm,” is how his clients, visitors and prospective tenants describe this newest of Alhambra’s retro gems. “People like that they can have a beautiful office and natural light,” he says.

IONA Work Spaces features a collection of unique offices, common areas and meeting spaces, with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and large spaces opening onto an historic street. “We’re getting a lot of interest from a mix of professionals including design and architect, consulting and real estate firms and tech oriented business who find IONA an ideal space to run their businesses and meet with clients. There are also a lot of neighbors within walking distance with home-based businesses who want a desk here as their ‘home office,’” Mike says.

A large “living room” space is perfect for after-hours events, like the informal chamber music performance put on by one of IONA Work Spaces new members. Mike hopes this space can be used for ongoing similar gatherings for its members.

More than a beautiful office building, Mike is looking to IONA Work Spaces to be a center of attraction to Alhambra. He hopes to use it to strengthen and promote Alhambra’s position as a center of all the economic activity coming from Pasadena, Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. In particular, “I would love for IONA to be a hub of China-related businesses,” he declared.

IONA Work Spaces is currently accepting tenants. To learn more, visit IONA Work Spaces or email info@iona.work.

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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Marcello.LA.ConservancyClose to 100 people were in attendance at the City of Alhambra’s kick-off community meeting on December 12, 2017 regarding the development of a historic preservation program. Dozens of members of the Alhambra Preservation Group, as well as a representative with the Los Angeles Conservancy, were in attendance to provide input and feedback to the City of Alhambra regarding which elements need to be included in the City’s historic preservation program.

“We are pleased that the City of Alhambra is finally recognizing the value of preserving and protecting its cultural, historical and architectural resources,” stated Joyce Amaro, President of the Alhambra Preservation Group. “APG is excited to be an active partner in developing a preservation program that fits our unique community,” continued Amaro.

During this kick-off meeting, City of Alhambra Director of Development Services, Marc Castagnola provided a presentation on the development of a historic preservation program and the input being solicited by the City of Alhambra. After the presentation,  attendees were separated into four different working groups to provide input into what elements need to be included and what issues needed to be addressed in the development of a historic preservation program for Alhambra.

“After so many years of talking with Alhambrans about the benefits of historic preservation, it was gratifying to me to witness the very positive response of our citizens to this issue in the General Planning process,” said Christine Olson, Alhambra Preservation Group’s immediate past President. “I was pleased that the City responded with the December public meeting and I look forward to more substantive meetings in the near future,” continued Olson.

The City of Alhambra welcomes additional input regarding this program. Alhambra Preservation Group is in the process of drafting a position letter on the development of Alhambra’s historic preservation program. If you were not able to attend the December 12 meeting, but would like to provide input, please visit the City’s historic preservation program web page.

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CA.Pres.Found.Conf.Joyce&BarbaraBy Joyce Amaro

Spring has sprung! We’ve all been enjoying the “superbloom”, gentle showers and warmer weather that spring always brings. Here at APG, we’ve also been springing into action to move Alhambra closer to the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance. Here’s a summary of just a few of the activities we’ve been busy with since the beginning of the new year.

At the end of February, I attended a Mills Act Workshop hosted by Pasadena Heritage. This was a good opportunity to learn more about the Mills Act and how owners of historic homes may one day be able to benefit from it here in Alhambra. You can learn more about the Mills Act here.

As many of you are aware, the City of Alhambra heard an appeal of the Lowe’s Development on Fremont on February 27. APG Board Members were in attendance and several spoke at the City Council meeting. The latest information on the Lowe’s Development project can be found here.

In March, I met with City of Alhambra City Manager Mark Yokoyama and Development Services Director Tonya Pace to discuss the status of the adoption of a preservation ordinance in Alhambra and next steps.  Both stated that the adoption of a preservation ordinance as well as the adoption of a Mills Act Program in Alhambra would be addressed in the upcoming release of the City’s General Plan. As you may remember, APG members participated in the 2015 General Plan Survey as well as the community meetings, providing vital input to the City of Alhambra on the need for a historic preservation ordinance. After this meeting with the City of Alhambra, I am more hopeful than ever that APG’s hard work is about to pay off and that we will see goals related to both of a preservation ordinance and the Mills Act included in Alhambra’s draft General Plan. We are still awaiting the release of the draft General Plan. We will let all of you know as soon as we hear more from the City of Alhambra.

Recently, I was asked to serve on Alhambra’s Source’s Community Advisory Board.  I am honored to serve on this advisory board as this vital community resource takes steps towards becoming a non-profit organization.  In mid-April, I met with the Alhambra Source’s editor Phoenix Tso to discuss an article the Alhambra Source plans on writing about Alhambra’s need for a preservation ordinance. I’ll be sure to send it your way once it’s written.

On May 12, Barbara Beckley and I were honored to present “Putting Alhambra on the Map” at the California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference “Preservation at the Forefront” in Pasadena. You may remember the Google map APG created last spring, which maps out Alhambra’s historic homes, businesses, churches and schools. Barbara and I presented information on how the map was created as well as APG’s current and future plans for the map. Have you checked out APG’s Alhambra Historic Resources map lately? We’re in the process of adding photos of historic homes to the map. If you know of a home you would like to include, please send it my way at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

Lastly, be sure and put June 29 on your calendar! APG will be hosting an early summer evening event “Coffee with a Council Member” on Thursday, June 29, 2017. More details will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, but you don’t want to miss this opportunity to meet Alhambra’s two new council members, Jeff Maloney and David Mejia. This is your chance to spend some time with them and ask them about issues facing your neighborhood and our city.

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IMG_7364On January 13, the City of Alhambra hosted the second General Plan Community Meeting at the Civic Center Library. Approximately 100 Alhambrans attended the workshop. The presentation given by the city’s consultant included information about the surveys that were collected this past summer and recommendations for Alhambra’s future. Here are a few of the evening’s highlights:

– Consultants conducted 400 random phone surveys from June 25 – July 9, 2015 with respondents prioritizing the enhancement of existing city services, the protection of the city’s character/quality of life and ensuring the health of the city’s economy and job market.

– Consultants collected 360 written surveys with 13% of respondents wanting to preserve historic homes and buildings, 13% of respondents expressing an interest in protecting open space/parks and trees and 9% of respondents interested in preserving the small-town community atmosphere.

– High priorities identified from the written surveys included the improvement of traffic flow (58%), the preservation of historic areas and buildings (52%) and the improvement of the maintenance of city streets (50%).

– Concerns expressed by respondents included the opinion that there is too much development in Alhambra. Sixty-six percent of respondents felt that there were too many condominiums, 60% expressed that there were too many apartments, and 58% said that there was too much mixed-use housing.

– Other ideas presented included the identification and enhancement of gateways entering Alhambra, linking neighboring community bike connectors into Alhambra, and the maintenance of Alhambra’s core industrial area while transitioning select industrial areas to commercial mixed use.Linear.Park.Railroad.Trench

– One idea that generated a lot of interest was the creation of a linear park over the current railroad trench, which runs parallel to Mission Road.

The January 13 community workshop presentation can be viewed here. The results of the community survey can be found here.

After the presentation, participants rotated through three stations – (1) Land Use & Economic Development, (2) Community Design & Character and (3) Mobility, providing additional input on elements/issues that need to be prioritized or were missing. The consultant team encouraged residents to e-mail comments or concerns to generalplan@cityofalhambra.org.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of people who submitted a written survey last summer stated that the preservation of historic areas and buildings should be a priority for the City of Alhambra. The commitment and dedication of APG’s members last summer to filling out and submitting the written surveys and taking the online survey paid off! The next step in this process is the writing and release of the draft General Plan, which should take place in late Spring. After the release of the draft General Plan, there will be a required 45-day public review period.

Yes, it may seem like we are inching our way toward a historic preservation ordinance, but that’s how change happens – one step at a time. APG is committed to advocating for the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance. The more Alhambrans who join us, the faster we’ll get to our goal of Alhambra adopting legislation that will protect and preserve our city’s architecturally significant homes and buildings.

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Jan.20.Planning.CommissionLast Tuesday night, Alhambra’s Council chambers were filled with residents attending the Planning Commission meeting where the City Ventures LLC Midwick project was discussed and considered.
Alhambra Preservation Group had six board members in attendance with three board members speaking against the project. “While none of the buildings in the proposed construction zone are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or included in Alhambra’s list of historic buildings, that does not mean the buildings aren’t significant. Some of them date back to 1937, and most were built between 1947 to 1968,” stated Christine Olson, APG President. “The city of Alhambra … has not compiled a list of its historic resources in more than 30 years, and that one was limited in its scope. What that means is that no one really knows if there are locally significant historic buildings in Midwick that will be demolished by this project,” she continued.
The meeting lasted until after 10 p.m with almost two and a half hours of public comment. Resident after resident gave informed, rational and heartfelt reasons why the project, which will be located at 2400 South Fremont Avenue in the Midwick Tract, should not move forward. Unfortunately, the Planning Commission approved the project by a vote of 7 to 2. Tom Maloney and Ross Maza were the only commissioners to vote against the project, which will demolish all existing structures, build 70 new residences and re-zone a portion of the area. The proposed project’s specific plan will now go before the City Council for final approval.
You can read more about the Mickwick project and last Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting in the Alhambra Source and Pasadena Star News. For ongoing updates about the Midwick project, follow Alhambra Preservation Group and Grassroots Alhambra on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of Oscar Amaro.

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IMG_2294Amid a colorful array of waitresses serving period favorites, vintage cars from the 1940s and 1950s, a Doo Wop Band – Woodie And The Long Boards and a larger than life bitter sweet hot fudge sundae, Twohey’s of Alhambra celebrated 70 years in business and the re-dedication of its new Huntington Banquet Room. The birthday bash, celebrated on May 15, kicks off a year-long celebration of the landmark restaurant located at 1224 N. Atlantic Boulevard in Alhambra, CA.

Alhambra, South Pasadena, San Marino and Pasadena dignitaries, as well as Alhambra Preservation Group board members, Christine Olson, Joyce Amaro and Barbara Beckley were in attendance to commemorate the day. Other dignitaries attending included LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Peter Dills, host of Dining with Dills and son of legendary food critic Elmer Dills. APG’s very own Barbara Beckley is a 1967 Tournament of Roses Princess and attended with two other members of the 1967 court.

The award-winning Twohey’s Restaurant is a local landmark. The restaurant, pronounced “2ee’s” opened in 1943 when owner Jack Twohey began his first restaurant on Arroyo Blvd. in Pasadena. Upon its opening, the restaurant had only 37 seats but quickly became known as the premier place for the finest hamburgers, onion rings and hand-dipped fountain specialties. Little Stink-O, the clothes-pin wearing, teary-eyed logo IMG_4352was trademarked by Mr. Twohey in 1943 and originated when he overheard a woman patron exclaim, “Oh, Stink-O!” when a gentleman next to her was served a hamburger generously garnished with onions and pickles. The present location featured memorable drive-up carhop service from the 1950s through the mid 1970s. At the celebration today, more than a dozen vintage cars took patrons back in a time when a drive-up restaurant was a popular hangout.

Today, the 180-seat Twohey’s, named 2012 Pasadena Weekly “Best of Pasadena” Winner for the “Best Family Restaurant,” “Best Burger” and “Best Breakfast” boasts 300 menu items and continues to serve up IMG_4355sumptuous sundaes and Little Stinko onion rings to guests from throughout Southern California. “We are truly honored to have been a part of the community for so many years and are delighted to have the family of the original owners Jean and Jerry Twohey here for this milestone event,” stated Jim Christos, present owner of Twohey’s Alhambra. “We hope to continue making memories and continue the tradition of serving quality food for generations to come.”

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group

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All across our nation, Americans are actively engaged in efforts to save the places that make our communities special and unique.  In recognition of these many and diverse activities, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has, since 2005, declared the month of May to be National Preservation Month.  We invite you to join this year’s celebration here at home!

We are honoring National Preservation Month with a project designed to raise awareness about the need for adoption of an historic preservation ordinance in Alhambra.  Each Monday in May, we’ll post a new installment of our Mythbusters series.  Much of what passes for “information” on historic preservation is actually just rumor, speculation and myth.  We’d like to set the record straight, and we encourage you to use the factual information you will discover here to educate and inform your friends, neighbors and community leaders.

Each and every individual can make a difference in changing public policy.  If you care about the protection of Alhambra’s unique and irreplaceable buildings and neighborhoods, we invite you to join with us to make historic preservation a vital element of our city’s General Plan.

Check in with us again on Monday, May 7th for the first installment of May Monday Mythbusters.  You’ll be glad you did!

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