City Council approves agreement to sell Downtown Long Beach armory building for $5.1 million

The Long Beach City Council approved an agreement between the city and a development group to purchase the Seventh Street Armory building that could be converted into an art-focused facility adjacent to a new affordable housing project.

Gundry Partners, LP, which includes St. Anthony High School, Pacific6 and Howard CDM, is expected to build a 64-unit all affordable housing unit in the parking lot next to the armory building as well as various improvements to Gumbiner Park adjacent to the project.

The adaptive reuse of the armory building will be used by St. Anthony but also could be available to the public as a performance space. The construction window for the project is expected to be 18 months, which means the earliest the project could be completed and ready for tenants to move in is spring 2024, according to a city memo.

The $5.1 million sale to Gundry Partners, LP is unique in that the city won’t receive any payment at closing, instead, it will begin to receive payments after the affordable housing loan used to develop the site is paid in full, and rents are sufficient to pay the operating expenses and debt service on affordable housing loan.

Payments to the city could come at any time over the 55-year term of the agreement but are not guaranteed. The loan being paid back to the city comes with a 3% interest rate and the balance of the contract could be paid off at the end of year 55 in the form of a balloon payment by the group.

While the city likely won’t receive a payment at the close of the sale, Economic Development Director John Keisler estimated in a memo to the council that the city would start to save approximately $25,000 per month that the city has been paying to keep the building under city ownership.

Negotiations for the site began in early 2021 but were drawn out because the developer insisted on purchasing the site when the city was looking for an entity to enter into a long-term lease for the armory building.

The initial plans called for a mixed development of both market-rate units being mixed in with affordable units in a bigger 86-unit housing development. While the total number of units has been reduced, the current plan will result in more affordable units being built.

The original proposal was only setting aside 40 of the 86 units as affordable housing.

The Seventh Street Armory building is eligible for being listed in the National Registry of Historic Places due to its association with World War II and its Art Deco architecture.

The building was completed in 1930 and was one of 10 built by the California Army National Guard. The guard relocated to the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos in 2018.

It initially served as home to the 2nd Battalion, 251st Coast Artillery unit, an anti-aircraft regiment in the lead up to World War II. The unit was called into service in September 1940, over a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into the war.

Editor’s note: Pacific6 is the parent company of Pacific Community Media, which owns the Long Beach Post. You can read more about the Post ownership here.

Downtown armory building could be transformed to housing, office space under new proposal

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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