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Galleria Proves Itself in Revival of Downtown

January 09, 1986|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

The crush of holiday shoppers last month at the Glendale Galleria ended a record retail sales year that officials say will net the city nearly $3 million in sales taxes, strengthening its position as Glendale's largest source of sales tax revenue.

That figure gratifies city officials who once faced criticisms that the mall would not make money for Glendale and would destroy its small-town character. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Galleria is, by most accounts, a huge success.

Though the Galleria has displaced residents and businesses and brought more traffic and crime to the city, the $160-million, three-level mall has lured shoppers back to Glendale, which had suffered a steady flight of customers to other cities during the 1950s and 1960s. The mall's success has also catalyzed subsequent retail improvements and office construction downtown, officials and businessmen say.

Redevelopment Zone

"Cities are most motivated by putting themselves back on the map," said Christopher Leinberger of developer Robert Charles Lesser & Co., a Beverly Hills firm that advises cities on redevelopment. The Galleria anchors the southern end of the city's 227-acre redevelopment zone, which stretches south from the Ventura Freeway to Colorado Boulevard, mainly between Central and Maryland avenues.

"The role retail plays is crucial to revitalization because it provides activity over a 12- to 18-hour day, and it tends to be an anchor for office development," Leinberger said. "Certainly, Glendale has done it better than most cities."

Jim Munson, manager of the Coldwell Banker branch in Glendale, said the Galleria "has propelled Glendale into the future."

"Now, there is a tremendous demand from retailers who want to be part of the Glendale marketplace," he said.

With its six major department stores and 240 shops, the Galleria is among California's top five retail centers in sales. Total sales for 1985 are expected to be near $300 million when the Christmas season is tallied.

Expansion Plans

Plans for a third wing, expected to be announced this year, may make the Galleria second only to Orange County's South Coast Plaza. The addition is expected to be on a block bounded by Colorado, Orange and Harvard streets. It probably will be connected to the southeast corner of the mall near Buffum's department store, with a second pedestrian bridge over Central Avenue.

City officials and developers say they want the next phase of the Galleria to include high-priced department stores such as I. Magnin and Bullock's Wilshire, plus an entertainment attraction such as an ice-skating rink or movie complex.

"We need to increase the shopping day, the experience of coming to the Galleria," said Daniel W. Donahue, chairman of the board of Donahue-Schriber, formerly John S. Griffith & Co., which also developed Galleria II, the mall's first addition.

The latest expansion, like the other two parts of the mall, is to be financed with a combination of city and private funds, under the aegis of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency. The city has issued about $45 million in bonds to buy additional land for the Galleria, build parking garages and make other improvements.

The annual cost of amortizing the bonds, however, is covered by the additional $1.1 million collected each year in increased property taxes derived as a result of improvements to the Galleria property during the past 15 years.

The sales tax income from the Galleria provides about one-fifth of the city's total sales tax revenue, which has become increasingly important since property taxes were limited in 1978 by Proposition 13. The city uses half the sales tax revenue for general funds and sets the other half aside for capital projects. That has helped Glendale to become one of the few cities in the state that can afford to pay cash for its construction projects.

New Jobs

In addition, the Galleria has provided about 4,000 new jobs, which have added to the city's overall economic health, city officials said.

The price of success, however, has been substantial.

The large crowds attracted to the Galleria include "a certain element who believe in taking something for nothing," said Glendale police Sgt. Dean Durand, who heads a four-man police substation inside the mall. Of 26 crime-reporting areas in the city, the area that includes the Galleria has the largest number of reported thefts, burglaries and car thefts, police statistics show. But for personal safety, the Galleria ranks as one of the safest spots in the city, Durand said.

The Galleria has also drawn its share of complaints because of heavy traffic on adjacent streets and the difficulty of finding parking despite the 6,200 spaces in its two garages. But city officials say they prefer those problems to the ones created by a dormant commercial district.

Many Shops Closed

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