One of San Pedro’s two LAUSD-affiliated charter schools closed over the summer, leaving its nearly 100-year-old building for sale for close to $10 million.
Alliance Ellis M. Baxter College-Ready High School, which opened in 2014 and educates about 350 students each year, closed in June. The school’s mission was to provide relief to overcrowded public schools and to serve low-income students. During its seven years of operation, the high school served about 1,500 students, Zainab Ali, chief of staff for Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, said in an email.
School, 461 W. Why Ninth St., closed, was unclear, with Ali providing no other details on where current students now attend classes.
“In June 2021, Alliance was able to offer other school options for all of our scholars in Baxter,” Ali said, “by providing high-quality placements at other Alliance and LAUSD schools.”
The school was named after Alice Mary Byrne Baxter, who was born in 1909 and raised by philanthropist and diplomat Frank E. Baxter’s mother. The school’s first graduation took place in 2018 at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro.
The school was located on .91 acres, within a 35,366 square foot building, and has a parking lot. The two-story building includes state-of-the-art classrooms, a 5,440-square-foot multipurpose room, and an outdoor entertainment space.
The Alliance, founded in 2004, is a non-profit organization with approximately 25 charter schools around Los Angeles that focus on preparing students for college and provide a comprehensive, liberal arts education.
The Alliance’s overall mission, according to the website, “is to establish a network of small, high-performing high schools and middle schools in low-income communities in California with historically low-performing schools, which annually measure scholarly academic achievement.” Will demonstrate growth, and graduate scholars prepared for success in college.”
The schools operate under a charter issued by the Los Angeles Unified School District. The website now lists Alliance Schools in Sun Valley, Glassell Park/Lincoln Heights, Downtown and East Los Angeles, Huntington Park, South Los Angeles and Watts.
Baxter was active in the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, entering the city’s annual holiday parade in the years before the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. But last year the school did not renew its chamber membership.
The closure of Baxter leaves Pola High – the Port of Los Angeles – as the only other charter school in San Pedro.
It also opens up a newly available property in the port community, which has already seen rapid residential development and the new West Harbor waterfront attraction to open as a potential tourist draw in the next few years.
The now-vacant building of the charter school, which Alliance owns, is suited for housing another school, but could also be repurposed for other uses, including office or residential, according to real estate broker Dan Morar. .
If it becomes a school, it will likely not be affiliated with or operated by LAUSD.
LAUSD chief facilities executive Mark Howater said the district “has no plans” to purchase the school’s site.
“Los Angeles Unified does not typically purchase other schools for charter use,” he said, “and, at this time, we see no need to purchase a new school.”
Just east of Pacific Avenue, the building will receive a hefty sum regardless of who buys it:
According to the real estate website Loopnet.com, the site is classified as an exclusive property and is currently valued at $9.9 million.
The last time the building was on the market, in 2014, the asking price was $3.4 million.
It also has a fascinating history.
Built in 1923, the building was originally home to the Clark Cooke Lincoln Ford car dealership, where a young salesman named Frank Smoller allegedly sold the first Model A on the West Coast. It later changed hands and became home to DiCarlo’s Bakery, with family members adding a living quarter upstairs in the 1940s.
The building was converted in the 1950s into the San Pedro Bowling and Recreation Center, which closed in 1991.
The Hope Chapel of San Pedro purchased the building in 1996 for $795,000, well below the $1.5 million price it had at the time. The church was renting an old roller-skating rink just two blocks away for its services.
The pastor at the time, Dan Brown, who had a construction background, was concerned with the “bones” of the building after Smoller brought in some old photographs of the original car dealership. Smoller died in 2002.
“It gave us an idea of what could happen there,” Brown said of the building rehab project in a 2008 Daily Breeze article.
After completing an $800,000 remodeling job from the inside, work began to “open” the exterior, the originals of which were covered during various changes over the years. That rehab project received a $75,000 grant from the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency during a period when historic buildings and façades were the focus of the San Pedro revitalization push.
The large arched windows originally built into the façade were opened and restored to show the cars at Ford dealerships.
But when Brown moved out of the area and a new chaplain was installed, Hope Chapel decided to sell the building and rent meeting space elsewhere to get out of the mortgage.
This led the Alliance to take control of the property in 2014.