Until now, Glendale has concentrated on transforming its once quiet Midwestern-style downtown into a rapidly growing financial center by leveling blocks of brick buildings and replacing them with high-rise glass-and-concrete office towers.
However, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency is studying a proposal to rehabilitate a one-block area of Brand Boulevard instead of razing it to make way for new buildings.
If the agency adopts the staff proposal, the project would be the agency's first whole-block rehabilitation project and could set the city's policy for renovation of other blocks, said Susan Shick, deputy redevelopment director.
Although the block may still be leveled for redevelopment later, Shick said, "As an interim use, rehabilitation is very appealing."
Developer Donald Platz, president of Dorn-Platz & Co., said the proposal, if adopted by the agency, would be "a totally new direction for Glendale and a very exciting one." Only a year ago, the city rejected a proposal by a developer to rehabilitate a nearby block.
Platz and developer William K. Holderness said renovation is particularly important now in Glendale because a significant demand has emerged among retailers for rental space surrounding the Glendale Galleria, a highly successful regional retail center. Holderness, who recently completed the refurbishing of two buildings in the 200 S. Brand block, said the buildings were rented within 60 days after completion.
"This is a very good time for small office-space users and for retail in Glendale," Holderness said.
Donn Logan of ELS Design Group, the city's architectural consultant, said that, although cities across the nation have been renovating historic districts for decades, the idea is "just coming to maturity in the Los Angeles region."
Attempts by local cities to renovate downtowns--such as Burbank's Golden Mall project--often did not work because they were not extensive enough, Logan said. He said the renovations should have included all buildings in addition to streets.
The Glendale Redevelopment Agency is studying a proposal by its staff to rehabilitate the downtown block bounded by Broadway, Brand Boulevard and Wilson and Maryland avenues. The cornerstone of the project would be renovation of the six-story Security Pacific Bank building at Brand and Broadway, heralded as "Glendale's first skyscraper" when it was completed in 1924.
Current owners of the building are seeking permission to renovate it. Because of this, the city is asking other property owners to restore buildings to their original appearances by removing applied facade treatments, rooftop signs and billboards and other materials that have altered their original architectural details.
But the key to the renovation is parking. Dorn-Platz & Co. and Howard Development Co. of Glendale, the partnership that bought the bank building in December, is seeking city financial and planning assistance to build a parking garage to serve renovated offices in the bank.
City staff members want all property owners that could benefit from such additional parking to help bear the cost of the parking structure in addition to renovating their properties. In exchange, the city is willing to help finance the cost, which has not been determined.
Tax benefits and low-interest loans are available to property owners who renovate certain projects. Costs of improvements may be depreciated faster than the speed permitted for new development.
But Glendale developers on Tuesday warned that such benefits may soon disappear because of federal changes in tax laws. Eric Ashton, a Glendale attorney and property specialist, warned city officials and property owners: "If you are going to do anything, you will have to start now."
Platz said the partnership that bought the Security Pacific building plans to restore it "to its original splendor when it was the premier building in the whole area." He said more than $2 million would be spent to rehabilitate the structure, including renovation of the interior and installation of burgundy canvas canopies on the ground level.
Shick said renovation work already done by Dorn-Platz on its other building on the block, a two-story structure at Brand and Wilson, is an example that she hopes the rest of the block will follow.
Platz said the building, which houses the Coach's Cellar restaurant in the basement, had been significantly altered over the years for banking and retail uses. The building now has been restored to the way it appeared when it was built in 1903, he said.
However, Shick maintains that renovation of the 100 N. Brand block is only an interim improvement that would be allowed because the block is not needed for at least 10 to 15 years for any redevelopment project. Six other major office buildings expected to be under construction on other downtown sites soon will provide enough new office space for the next five years, she said.
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