Highland Park City Hall remains in limbo as previous owner tries to force city to give it up

Highland Park City Hall

HIGHLAND PARK ––  It was more than a decade ago that the city forced the owner of the Security Trust & Savings Bank building to sell the imposing structure for use as a Highland Park City Hall and constituent services center.  Now, with the building remaining empty and unused, the previous owner says the city must now offer to the sell back the historic landmark.

Except for the occasional film shoot or special community event, the  two-story Renaissance Revival structure at the corner of Figueroa and Avenue 56  has been empty for more than a decade.  The city historic landmark — designed by the same architectural firm that worked on the iconic L.A. City Hall — is one of the last major commercial buildings that has not been  renovated on this stretch of Figueroa, where new restaurants and stores have opened in recent years.

On Friday, the lawyer for the previous owner, Richard Rutgard, appeared before the City Council to oppose a measure that renews the city’s long-delayed plans to convert the building for public use.

Attorney Charles D. Cummings claims the city council missed a 10-year-deadline requiring it to take such action by the end of May under state laws governing the use eminent domain to take over private property. Now, under the same laws, the city must now offer to sell the property back to the owner, according to Cummings.

“The 10 years have expired,” Cummings told the council. “You’re beyond that point.”

But the council went ahead and passed the measure.

The City Council had been made aware two years ago that the deadline was approaching after staff reported that renovating the structure, a project that would cost $16.5 million and take four years to design and complete.

In a letter to the City Council, Cummings said First District Councilman Gil Cedillo’s Highland Park field office, located across the street from the empty bank building, serves as a constituent center. That means the city does not need his client’s former building to serve the same purpose.

“The only action that the City may legally take, and, indeed, is required to take, is to offer our client the opportunity to repurchase the Subject Property,” Cummings said in his letter.

The Eastsider has contacted Cummings and Cedillo’s office for more information.

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  1. Cedillo’s idea for a vibrant community is automatic garbage cans that don’t work vacant historic buildings and taking thousands from Trumps biggest supporter Geoffrey Palmer. Your vote for Cedillo was a vote for Trump. Google It.

  2. Yes PLEASE take the building back from the city and return it to private hands where it can be renovated and put back into use. It’s embarrassing to have this jewel of a building sitting empty while all around it there are vibrant businesses returning to the street. The bank building could really be something special, but in Cedillo’s hands, it’s an empty shell. Everytime I see this building sitting there, I get angry knowing how amazing it could be and yet it’s not even close at this point. If Cedillo and LA couldn’t rehab the building in 10 YEARS, then they should sell it back into the private sector and let them do the work.

  3. you’re* beyond that point

  4. This building has been on life support long enough. We were promised a community center and an office for the Historic Highland Park Heritage Trust. The building would be a stunning repurpose for community space and commercial space. I hope someone who loves it brings it back for us. We continue to be neglected by our city rep.

  5. I think it would make a grand private residence. I would love to get my hands on it.

  6. How many of you were around when it was a bank? And the last time it was robbed.

  7. “..renovating the structure, a project that would cost $16.5 million and take four years to design and complete”
    Thats totally insane! It is not that a large structure, and looks to already have been retrofitted. Plumbing for a structure on a property this size would max at $20K.. Bathroom and kitchen per apartment max $20K (let’s say 4 units upstairs) ..total $80k. Electrical for the whole building another $30k.. sheet rock, floors etc.. lets throw in another $100k. Downstairs would surely be a business and the cost would be by the new business.
    That adds up to $130k on the low end and $200k on the high end. Add a brand new roof $50k, all new windows $70k-$100k (double paned glass?.. so I am seeing max $300k. An additional 20% contingency ..and throw in one more 100k just for fun.. still under $500k
    Where on earth is the city coming up with 16.5 million???

  8. I hope he gets it back. It just needs to be tended to and the city hasn’t done the job:(

  9. And I suppose there was no community input that was solicited or obtained before this vote? Who do they work for?

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