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SCI-Arc Loses Battle over the Right to Buy Its Building

On June 21, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) lost its legal battle over who had the right to buy its historic Santa Fe Freight Depot where the school has been housed for five years. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge found that the contract established between SCI-Arc and the building owner, Dynamic Builders Inc., was not binding. The court’s ruling allows Los Angeles developer Richard Meruelo to purchase the building. Meruelo is also moving forward with developing adjoining parcels of land that he owns. One of Meruelo’s original proposals for the site had included two large residential towers, but a story in the Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying he is not wedded to that idea, and wants to build a project that would be “urban, dense and bold.”

SCI-Arc has a 19-year lease on the building and doesn’t intend to move, say school officials. “SCI-Arc was put there [downtown] to reinvigorate the area,” says school director and Culver City architect, Eric Owen Moss. “Since we’ve been there land values have skyrocketed.”

Moss says that prior to Meruelo’s bid for the property, and the subsequent lawsuit, SCI-Arc had produced a conceptual plan for the redevelopment of the area. It’s not clear whether any of the institutes’ ideas will be implemented in Meruelo’s development but both parties have seemed to put hostilities aside long enough to agree to work together on a new plan.

Allison Milionis