Monrovia 2018: A year of renewal, movement, development and a few losses

- Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News
– Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

By Susan Motander

This was a busy year in Monrovia. The Monrovia Renewal Project is on the verge of completing the fourth of six sectors of the city in repairing, replacing, or repaving the infrastructure of the community. City staff literally rolled out the GoMonrovia program bringing Lyft and LimeBikes to the community. While the first of several apartment complexes began renting this year, several more are in the entitlement and planning phases near the Gold Line Station (not to mention the hotel at Huntington and Myrtle, and an apartment building in Old Town).

But it was not a year without losses as well. The Monrovia Community lost four of its luminaries this year: Pat Ostrey, Fred Bowden, Pam Fitzpatrick, and just last Friday, Charlotte Schamadan. All four have left lasting imprints upon the city they loved, and in very different ways.

When Tom Adams was elected Mayor in 2015, he ran largely on a platform of repairing the infrastructure of the city. By the following year the first contracts were awarded and work began through the center of the city. This year the work was completed in the northwest sector, west of Myrtle Avenue and north of Colorado Boulevard. All the parts of the city south the 210 Freeway will be completed early next year and work will begin in the northernmost parts of the city abutting the foothills.

While parts of the city staff were working on repairing (among other things) the city’s streets, others were focused on using them more intelligently. On March 17, 2018 the GoMonrovia program was launched. This combined the introduction of LimeBikes to the community, especially to alleviate the parking problems in the Old Town area as well as to provide an alternate form of transportation to the city’s residents.

The major part of GoMonrovia is the Lyft program in which the city subsidizes Lyft rides within the city. The program has proven so successful that the council had to revise the program to ensure that there will be sufficient funds to continue to subsidize the rides. Now only shared rides are $1 while classic individual rides now cost $3.50. It is still a value.

Transportation has also sparked another change in the community. The Metro Gold Line came to town several years and a large apartment complex was proposed and approved at the same time as the station. That project has completed its first phase and is in the process of renting those apartments (ultimately there will be 261 apartments at MODA). Now another complex, this one by Richman Residential has been entitled by the city with construction expected to begin late next year when all the plans are approved.

These two projects began a sort of new “Gold Rush” around the Gold Line Station with at least four more complexes in the development phase, but not yet approved. This is in addition to the completed, and almost completely rented out Areum complex at Fifth Avenue and Huntington Drive and the AvalonBay Residential Project of 154 units just south of Old Town on Myrtle Avenue where construction is expected to begin from mid to late next year.

The long anticipated Marriot TownePlace Suites should begin construction in mid to late 2019 as well. The land for this high-end, hi-tech hotel has been approved in concept by the city, with final plans still in the works.

While all of these were positive notes for many in the city, there were some major losses as well.

In January, former Mayor Pat Ostrey died. She was one third of the slate that ran together in the 1970s for city council with the determination to keep the city from dying. She and Bob Bartlett and Eric Faith did just that using every opportunity, especially the redevelopment program, to do just that. Ostrey focused her energy on the youth and on the elderly beginning among other things the city’s Meals on Wheels program and the Volunteer Center. She is the only person to have held every elected office in the city: council, mayor, clerk and treasurer. In fact she was the first woman mayor and the first directly elected mayor. And she was a wonderful person.

Just the next month the community lost another person vital to the rejuvenation of the city: Fred Bowden. A sometimes-controversial developer, he took on projects others would not touch such as the complex on West Walnut. At that time it was a gang infested neighborhood that other developers would not touch. Fred did at the request of the city to improve the neighborhood. It did, and he did much more in creating not just high-end housing, but also some so-called low-mod housing in other sections of the city.

During the summer another major figure in Monrovia died: Pam Fitzpatrick. In many ways she was the driving force in Old Town. She and her sisters started the Dollmakers on Myrtle Avenue and Pam immediately took leadership roles in the Old Town area. There was not a project in which she did not have a hand for many years. For decades she was the “go-to” person for information about what was happening in Old Town, mainly because she organized most of the activities.

Just as we thought we were out of this year, we lost another major player in the community: Charlotte Schamadan. She died just last Friday after battling sinus cancer for eight years. There were so many things in which she was involved. She moved into Monrovia in 1979 and immediately became a Monrovian involving herself in all the activities in the city. She worked on election campaigns and on the city’s centennial committee that lead to the creation of the Monrovia Historical Museum. She spearheaded the bond measures that brought a new library to the city and an overhaul of Monrovia High School. She even had time to be the president of the Foothill Unity Center, but also the local Quota Club and the president of its International Organization. All this despite the fact that she was severely hearing impaired. She was an inspiration to many.

This is a negative note on which to end an article, so one last thought: Monrovia is a community with its feet firmly planted in its rich history, put with its eye always on the future. All four of those we lost this year exemplified this concept.


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