The Southern California Institute of Architecture, an anchor of the Downtown Arts District since 2000, is considering pulling up stakes for Hollywood, the Wilshire Corridor, or the Westside, reports the Downtown News. SCI-Arc rents its 2nd Street campus from developer Meruelo Maddux, and the arch-school has long wanted to own its home but has been stymied by Maddux, which according to DN makes a lot of money renting to SCI-Arc (the school's lease is up in Nov. 2010 and has three three-year options to extend). The fact that Maddux filed for Chapter 11 in March complicated things further. Pasadena-based Legendary Investors bought up Meruelo's notes and seems to want to foreclose on SCI-Arc. On Maddux foreclosing on the property, Surjit Soni of Legendary says to the DN, "SCI-Arc, I understand, had an interest in purchasing some of the land. We'd be open to a discussion with them as we would with any other purchaser, but we have the capacity to develop those properties and we will do so unless someone makes us an offer we can't refuse."
Jamie Bennett, SCI-Arc's COO, said the school is not yet decided on whether to stay or depart their 3rd Street campus and right now is thinking about #1, namely buying itself a nice new building/campus (probably while the market is in their favor). "I think we need to wait for these things to play out," he told the DN. "We will be operating in our own self-interest. We haven't been unhappy down here in the Arts District. We've got flexibility in terms of our future and we have optimism about our future, but our future will include owning where we are."
Downtown stakeholders like Cecilia Estolano, CEO of the Community Redevelopment Agency, are watching this closely. SCI-Arc's 500 students, not to mention faculty and staff, have done much to turn the Arts District around and acted as a catalyst for major change and development in the neighborhood.
Will new SCI-Arc board member and club/restaurant entrepreneur Sam Nazarian push for a trendier spot for SCI-Arc? Maybe near a Katsuya? Hope not.