Another downtown landmark has been sold and targeted for remodeling. But the 76-year-old Ramona building at Sixth and J streets won't become office condos or upscale housing.
It's becoming a church - the new area center of the Church of Scientology, known for celebrity members such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley.
The church just completed acquisition of the Spanish-style, five-story building, paying $4.75 million - in cash - to an investment group headed by Harry Gerdes.
The Ramona was one of the city's top hotels in the '30s and '40s before falling on hard times. It ceased hotel operations in 1979 and was converted to office and retail uses.
Church spokesman Mike Klagenberg says seismic retrofitting is planned, along with exterior painting and a complete interior rehab to create a chapel, classrooms and administrative offices.
"It will be gorgeous when we're done," he says.
The church's much smaller building at 825 15th St. will be sold.
Scientology officials are negotiating buyouts of the leases of current Ramona tenants, including a restaurant, a bail bonds operation and several law offices.
The church has a social mission that includes battling drug use. But contrary to some rumors circulating this week, it won't be treating drug addicts at the new location.
What it will have, Klagenberg says, is a church-created detox program that combines exercise and sauna use to rid the body of residues from pollutants, pesticides and various pharmaceuticals.
"This is strictly a church," Klagenberg says. "Not a drug rehab center."