Group of 3, maybe 4,
set to buy AC's upper campus
By Gary Scott
PASADENA, Calif.--The Worldwide Church of God is selling the last piece of its former Ambassador College campus to the same consortium that bought the Ambassador Auditorium and surrounding administrative buildings last May, church officials confirmed Dec. 17.
A memo sent to WCG employees says the 17-acre upper campus has gone into escrow with a group that includes Maranatha High School, Harvest Rock Church and Sunrise Senior Living.
"The buyer's ultimate plans are not yet finalized and the Church will probably remain in use of some upper campus buildings until we move our entire operations to our new facility in Glendora," the memo says.
The upper campus, as it is commonly known, borders Orange Grove Boulevard and includes many of the historic mansions and gardens that preservationists and neighbors fought to save when the WCG was planning a housing development on the site.
Bernie Schnippert, finance director for the church, acknowledged the contents of the memo. He declined to state the selling price but said escrow is scheduled to close in January.
"We are optimistic everything will play out according to the contract," Dr. Schnippert said.
Details of the pending sale remain cloaked by a confidentiality agreement. Statements made by those close to the deal indicate a fourth party may be involved in the transaction, but representatives from the three known buyers refused to comment.
"I can't comment on anything," said David Poole, president of the Maranatha High School board of directors. Wayne Sant, vice president of Sunrise, said there were "other players involved" but would not elaborate.
Harvest Rock's Pastor Che Ahn would say only, "Harvest Rock is playing a very low-key role in this."
The consortium calls itself Ambassador Coalition Partners.
Mike Vogler, president of Save South Orange Grove, welcomed news of the sale but warned that if the buyers want to build a "massive" housing project on the acreage "it is going to be unpleasant for everyone."
Mr. Vogler was also troubled by the lack of disclosure about the buyers and their intentions for the property.
Save South Orange Grove fought a plan to develop the campus into housing, saying it would destroy surrounding neighborhoods and clog roads with traffic. Neighbors expressed relief when the church sold the lower campus, since the buyers said they had no plans to develop housing and would preserve many of the historic buildings, including the Auditorium.
Maranatha is converting the mothballed classrooms for use by its high-school students. Harvest Rock took the Auditorium for its house of worship and has reopened the renowned concert hall to public performances.
The Virginia-based Sunrise Senior Living announced plans to demolish the administrative building on the lower campus. It will build in its place a 300,000-square-foot senior care center with 170 to 190 housing units.
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