[Update] Monday, May 8: Ownership has decided to hold onto the building and is working with an architectural firm to restore and redevelop it. We'll report on the details as we learn more.
A rundown building in Downtown’s historic core that boasts an incredible wealth of historic Batchelder tiles just hit the market, with the owners seeking to sell for at least $8 million.
The four-story building once held on its ground floor the Dutch Chocolate Shop, a city landmark decorated top to bottom with elaborate tiles crafted by renowned Pasadena artist Ernest Batchelder. It’s considered by many experts to be the tilemaker’s most important commission.
A trust that’s owned the 6th Street property for more than a decade is selling as part of a broader move to divest its assets, says listing agent J. Austin Russell. The building is completely vacant now, but was most recently occupied by offices upstairs and retail on the ground floor.
In the 1990s, the fantastic tilework of the early twentieth-century chocolate shop was boarded up. It was only rediscovered in 2012—incredibly, during a public tour. The shop is usually hidden behind a roll-up metal door, but lucky visitors who tour the space can see a wonderland of elaborate tile murals:
Modeled after a German bier stube (beer hall) ... Nearly every square inch of the deep, windowless interior, including walls, pillars, and the groined-vault ceiling, is covered in Batchelder's custom work. On the walls, 21 murals in bas relief—the larger ones are maybe six-foot by five-foot and are comprised of four-inch tiles—depict scenes of daily life in Holland.
Future owners will have to contend with some pricey restorations (once estimated between $300,000 and $350,000) and will likely have to add a second exit to the building. That has been a hurdle to reopening the space for years. A passageway into the Spring Arcade Building once served as a secondary exit, but it was bricked up in 2002. Reopening it has proven to be incredibly difficult.
Russell says the owners have been working with the Downtown-based architecture firm Omgivning to remedy the issue, and the firm has come up with a fix, but Russell warns it won’t be cheap.
Still, for anyone hoping to turn the Dutch Chocolate Shop space into a restaurant or, dream of dreams, a chocolate shop, that second exit would be vital. Without an additional exit, the maximum occupancy for the space is just 50 people; with it, the space could hold 200 people.
The property is being marketed without an asking price, but the listing agent says the owners want to fetch at least $8 million.