By Susan Motander
On September 2, the development firm Samuelson & Fetter received approval for a 261-unit apartment complex as a part of Monrovia’s Station Square. This is the first private development approved as part of the redesign of the area. As Blaine Fetter one of the principals of the company explained to the city’s Planning Commission (a la the Beatles song), “this has been a long and winding road.”
Originally Samuelson Fetter was set to develop the entire 80-acre site that made up Station Square. The firm had been working with the city since the early 2000s to create a new center surrounding the Gold Line Station. The entire development envisioned at that time stretched from Magnolia Avenue on the West to Shamrock Avenue on the East, and from the 210 Freeway on the north to Duarte Road on the south.
Slowly that project eroded away. First, the Gold Line needed the eastern third of the property for its maintenance yard. This virtually eliminated the planned unit development element of the project. Eventually a revised, smaller plan that encompassed only 25 acres was approved in 2008.
The 2008 plan involved only the area directly around the square from Magnolia to Myrtle Avenues and from Evergreen Avenue south to Duarte Road. There was to be a residential complex between Magnolia and Primrose along Pomona Avenue on the north side of the tracks (Phase I of the development) and a mixed-use facility between Primrose and Myrtle (Phase II). This plan called for the parking structure for the Gold Line Station to be on the south side of the tracks.
Unfortunately, the Gold Line parking structure had to be moved to the north side of the tracks putting it right in the middle of the planned residential complex. At about the same time, the California State Legislature terminated Redevelopment Agencies throughout the state. This meant the city could not acquire the property needed to complete the planned project.
At that time Samuelson Fetter sued the city. As Blaine Fetter said at the time, “We had no choice; we needed to protect our interest.” The lawsuit did not blame the city for the problems, but rather brought up the issue of its inability to comply with its agreement with Samuelson & Fetter for reasons beyond the city’s control. The settlement reached by all the parties to the lawsuit, left only 2.8 acres for this first development.
The complex will consist of two buildings of apartments and a separate parking structure between and surrounded by the apartment structures. This style is called a “wrap” construction, rather than “pedestal.” In the latter, the apartments are built on top on (quite often subterranean) the parking facilities. Here the apartments almost hide the parking facilities.
The complex will also have two courtyards, one in the center of each apartment building. In one courtyard there will be a swimming pool, pond, barbeque facilities and conversation areas. The other courtyard will be more restful and contemplative with conversation nodes and a “fire feature.” In addition there will also be a “sky deck” on top of the parking structure with facilities for the residents to entertain with an almost 360 degree views of the surrounding area. According to Fetter, it will have “a fie star hotel ambiance.”
There will be a lobby/lounge area, a two-story fitness room, and club/game room with WiFi, along with bike storage and repair shop. There will even be charging stations for electric cars. This is not the average apartment building. In the proposal supporting the complex, Lynda Fetter, Blaine’s wife and another Samuelson Fetter principal, wrote “Our goal is to create high quality, high-density housing adjacent to the Monrovia Gold Line Station.”
Blaine Fetter said that in planning the complex, they had even rented a crane to lift themselves 80 feet into the air to “see” the view residents would have from the “sky deck.” He described it as “amazing.”
The apartments themselves range from 586 sq. ft. studios with separate areas for living/kitchen and sleeping, to spacious 1266 sq. ft. two bedroom apartments with patios. All have washer/dryers and kitchens. The focus is greatly on the common areas previously detailed.
Blaine Fetter summed up the situation well in his presentation to the city. He wrote “Little of our original dream can remain but what still makes us happy is that Monrovia’s Station will create a sense of arrival and importance that will be unique for the greater Los Angeles area. The Parks at Station Square will be a wonderful living experience for all its occupants.”
There are still optimists left.