Commission set to review plans at Montessori School site

New housing may be changing the landscape of the Claremont community, but developer Taylor Morrison is taking strides to ensure some of the historical sights along Base Line Road remain intact.

The Arizona-based development company, currently building a 50-unit townhome complex at the corner of Base Line Road and Padua Avenue, recently purchased two additional properties at 560 and 618 Base Line Road, located on the south side of the street between Mountain Avenue and Indian Hill Boulevard.

The property has been at a standstill for years, having changed ownership six times before plans came to rest with Taylor Morrison earlier this year, and it appears after years of planning, development is not far away. The developer continues with the previous applicants intentions, planning to fill the four-acre property with another 64 townhomes, each two or three stories, in addition to commercial components. The Claremont City Council approved the plan last month with the hope that the developer would also include a single-story floor plan. Mayor Opanyi Nasiali cast the only dissenting vote because of the potential health impacts of housing developments built near freeways.

The developer’s plans call for the demolition of the former Montessori School and other buildings but the company will build around four historical rock structures at the site to be preserved for community use, much to the pleasure of city officials.

“Taylor Morrison has been very receptive,” said Brian Desatnik, director of community development. “They have come up with very creative ways of incorporating these buildings into their development.”

The historical structures—a foreman’s cottage and pump-house—will be used as office spaces and the additional two barns will become a community center and a picnic area for residents of the proposed “Gable Crossing” development.

The Johnson Family built the structures in 1916 to serve the family’s citrus business, reports Saul Jaffe in A History and Significance Study of The Johnson Ranch. In the years following the Johnson Family’s orange and lemon production, the pump-house served as a temporary art studio in the 1980s and the foreman’s cottage was also rented out, but the structures have remained relatively unused until now.

The Gable Crossing complex isn’t the only project in Claremont by Taylor Morrison with historical roots. The real estate company has played a part in the preservation of other historical structures in town, including incorporating two stone houses on the northwest corner of Padua and Base Line at the Citrus Glen at Pitzer Ranch development. On that property, the pump-house will be used for storage and the barn will be restored and renovated for a rentable community space.

Despite preservation efforts, one preexisting structure did not last construction of the Citrus Glen development. The Pitzer Ranch foreman’s residence was advertised for auction in the COURIER for a month last spring. With no bids received, however, the rock structure was demolished. The developer intends to use the stones to build a wall and mosaic.

As the first phase of construction at Citrus Glen wraps up, the Gable Grossing complex moves forward in the review process, set to come before the architectural commission on January 29. Taylor Morrison executives hope to break ground on the development this spring.

—Beth Hartnett




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