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

The Seventh Street Armory, known for its Art Deco design and connection to World War II, could soon be repurposed as the city continues its push to find a developer that could adaptively reuse the building that has sat vacant since 2018.

On Tuesday, the City Council will vote on whether to allow city staff to enter into exclusive negotiations with Gundry Partners, LP, a group that includes Howard CDM, Pacific 6 and St. Anthony’s High School. The armory is located between St. Anthony’s and Gumbiner Park on Seventh Street.

Howard CDM has been involved with a number of projects in the city including The Pike shopping center and Steelcraft in Bixby Knolls.

Martin Howard, CEO of Howard CDM and spokesperson for the project, did not respond to request for comment.

The group has proposed an adaptive reuse and restoration of the armory building as well as construction of residential housing on the parking lot to the south of it. Under the preliminary proposal, the armory could be transformed into office space, meeting rooms and studios as well as a performing arts center and garden.

A new development on the parking lot could introduce 86 new studio and one-bedroom housing units, 40 of which would be reserved for households making 60% of the area median income. Based on figures from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, a household of two in Los Angeles County making 60% of AMI would earn about $37,100.

The plan, as proposed, would serve as a joint-use space in which St. Anthony High School could use the performing arts spaces—there is potential for public use of the space as well—and residents and business tenants would use the remainder of the development.

However, the plans are very preliminary, explained John Keisler, the city’s director of economic development.

Tuesday’s vote would allow city staff to enter into a 90-day window where the proposal can be discussed at length and changes to the terms or proposed design could be explored.

“That’s what we think we’re going to need to hammer out an agreement,” Keisler said.

One of the issues that would need to be resolved is whether the site is purchased by the group or set into a long-term lease, as was the pitch included in the city’s request for proposals, or RFP. Gundry Partners was the lone respondent to the RFP.

While selling the site is not a deal breaker, Keisler said that would likely require some closed session discussions with the full City Council and other city leaders before that could be approved. The project itself would then also have to be processed through the city’s development services team and pass through the city’s Planning Commission before ending up at the City Council for a formal approval.

Because of the building’s historic importance, any approved project would have to comply with the city’s regulations protecting historic buildings that could expand the overall timeline of any project at the armory site.

“There will be plenty of time for public scrutiny,” Keisler said.

The Seventh Street Armory 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.

The building 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.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.