Western University of Health Sciences has closed a $4.2-million deal with JPMorgan Chase & Co. to buy the historic Chase Bank building in downtown Pomona, WesternU officials have announced.
“This acquisition is another important step in the continued development of WesternU, and underscores our commitment and investment in Pomona, and in all of the Southern California communities our University serves,” said Philip Pumerantz, PhD, president of WesternU. “In addition to providing badly needed space for our operations, this purchase communicates how important we believe it is to be a growing part of Pomona’s thriving downtown.”
The University plans to use the 70,000-square-foot, seven-story building on the southwest corner of Garey Avenue and Second Street primarily as office space, said Thomas G. Fox, PhD, WesternU senior vice president. The Chase Bank branch will remain in operation on the ground floor under a 10-year lease agreement with WesternU.
The building’s upper six floors were used for various Los Angeles County offices for many years. “Once we decide who’s going where, we will remodel to fit the use that goes there,” Fox said. The structure will be called the Anderson Tower, in honor of Don A. Anderson, DO, an alumnus of WesternU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), who died in 2011. A $4.2 million gift to WesternU from Dr. Anderson’s estate was used to purchase the Chase building.
“This gift from the estate of Dr. Anderson was entirely unexpected, but was received during our initial discussions with JPMorgan Chase & Co. It was fortuitous that these events happened as they did,” Pumerantz said.
Local preservationists consider the building to be an important part of Pomona’s history, as well as an example of the work that artist and Pomona native Millard Sheets did for financier Howard Ahmanson. The building was one of Ahmanson’s Home Savings branches when it opened in the early 1960s. Sheets designed the building’s façade, along with other buildings for Ahmanson; one of Sheets’ famed murals graces the bank’s walls.
The building for many years served as the western anchor for what was known as the Pomona Mall, a nine-block section of Second Street straddling Garey Avenue that was also designed by Sheets. The mall drew national attention when it opened on Oct. 15, 1962, and became the only pedestrian mall west of the Mississippi.
Much of the mall had been abandoned by the mid-1970s, when discussions about a new osteopathic medical college in California began to bear fruit. COMP opened in the Pomona Mall in September 1977, and over the years has acquired most of the land and structures that once made up the retail hub, converting them to educational use. COMP became WesternU in 1996.