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Traffic Woes Foreseen : Office Buildings Rise in Financial District

January 30, 1986|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

After a three-year hiatus in major new construction, more than a million square feet of new office space is rising in the financial district of downtown Glendale, near the Ventura Freeway.

Soon to come are thousands of new workers and thousands of more automobiles, making a significant impact on traffic patterns and congestion downtown, city officials said.

Steel frames of three office buildings have emerged on the skyline of the redevelopment area in the last few months. Construction of a fourth--to be the tallest in the city, at 20 stories--is about to begin. Scheduled to be completed within eight to 18 months, all the buildings are within four blocks of one another.

The $171 million in construction will increase office space by 50% in the financial district, which the city has designated along Brand Boulevard and Central Avenue between Lexington Drive and Glenoaks Boulevard. Traffic on already congested downtown streets will increase nearly 32%, pushing access routes to the Ventura Freeway to capacity, said Ken Johnson, city traffic engineer.

The four major projects under construction are:

Allstate Plaza. The first of the projects to get under way, the $43-million, 13-story office building at 801 N. Brand Blvd. is expected to be completed by fall. The 285,000-square-foot building will feature an extensive landscaped plaza with seating areas and cascading waterfalls. A parking garage for 1,026 cars will extend across Arden to the Verdugo Wash. Allstate Insurance Co., the developer, plans to include retail and restaurant facilities on the ground floor. The new tower will become part of the campus-like Sears Savings Plaza, which has two eight-story office buildings.

520 N. Central. A September opening is planned by developers Dorn-Platz Group of Glendale for this eight-story office project. The $15-million building, designed for small- and medium-size professional offices, will have 102,000 square feet and will provide parking for 347 vehicles. It too will have a landscaped plaza between the office building and a four-level parking structure.

505 N. Brand. Reliance Development Co. Inc. of Los Angeles is building a 15-story office tower next to a three-story retail and office building. The $65-million development will include a landscaped center plaza with water fountains, artwork and seating areas. The project will include 329,000 square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and a parking structure that will hold 1,189 cars.

550 N. Brand. Developer Smith & Hricik of Los Angeles purchased the site from Jaymont Properties Inc. of Chicago in October and plans to soon begin excavation for a $48-million, 20-story tower. The building will consist of a 16-story office tower with 306,000 square feet perched atop a five-level "parking podium," with one level underground. The ground level of the 860-stall parking structure will contain retail space for shops and restaurants. Completion is expected in mid-1987.

The four buildings are the first developed under the city's stringent new design guidelines, adopted in 1983, said Ed Lee, city redevelopment project coordinator. Under the guidelines, redevelopment projects must include such amenities as ground-level retail shops and pedestrian plazas with landscaping, seating areas and fountains. Also, high-rise buildings must have stepped-back upper floors, eliminating the once-typical rectangles.

The city this month was awarded a prestigious citation for its design guidelines by Progressive Architecture magazine. The guidelines were developed by the ELS Design Group of Berkeley after residents and business leaders complained that new buildings in the project area, formed in 1972, lack aesthetic appeal.

Cost to Taxpayers

Land for two of the projects, the Allstate and Reliance buildings, was acquired by the city agency and sold to developers at reduced prices at a total cost to taxpayers of $4.2 million. The city also provided $12 million in bond financing for construction of a parking garage at the Reliance project. No city funds were used for the Dorn-Platz and Smith & Hricik projects, redevelopment officials said.

City officials said the new projects will generate property-tax revenues, provide thousands of jobs and increase housing sales.

Lee said less than 200,000 square feet of vacant office space is now available in the redevelopment area, although the demand for new office space is expected to average 250,000 to 300,000 square feet per year for the several years. The vacancy rate in Glendale has fallen to less than 10% because of the lack of major construction in the last few years. However, vacancy rates in Los Angeles and other adjoining areas have climbed to 18% and more because of continued construction.

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