After months of study, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency this week selected Red Lion Inns to build and operate a major new hotel downtown on Central Avenue just north of the Ventura Freeway.
The agency, comprised of the five Glendale City Council members, selected the Red Lion chain by a 3-2 vote over two other finalists--Radisson Hotel Corp. and Sheraton Corp.
The vote Tuesday followed 30 minutes of motions and procedures in which none of the chains received a majority vote. But Councilman John F. Day, who first had endorsed Sheraton, swung his vote to Red Lion when it became apparent that no other option would be approved.
The agency had expected to select a hotel operator by last October, but was delayed by changes in conceptual plans for the site and proposed office development on adjacent property.
Mayor Larry Zarian this week said he was not prepared to select a developer because too many details are not settled.
However, Councilman Carl Raggio, who introduced the winning motion, said: "If we do not know what we want by today, then this whole thing has been an exercise in futility."
The action grants agency officials 45 days to develop a master plan for the project and to negotiate agreements with the developer. Red Lion is required to put up a $50,000 "good-faith deposit," half of which will be forfeited if an agreement cannot be reached with the city by the end of March, said Susan Shick, deputy redevelopment director.
If negotiations fail, the city could reopen discussions with one of the other chains, Shick said.
The Red Lion project, to be built by a partnership of Stanley Cohen of Newport Beach and Heltzer Enterprises of Los Angeles, calls for a $36-million, 16-story hotel with 350 rooms. It would include convention and meeting halls and a "sky lounge" restaurant at the top. Completion is expected by late 1989, Shick said.
The hotel site, which would be acquired by the redevelopment agency, is on the east side of Central Avenue, north of the Ventura Freeway, between Burchett Street and Arden Avenue. The property is now occupied by an apartment building and a restaurant.
The city is expected to contribute more than $5 million, which it eventually would recover from increased property-tax revenues and hotel-room fees.
Although council members said they had difficulty selecting from among the three finalists, Councilmen Raggio and Jerold Milner said they picked Red Lion because its management concept seems to encourage active participation in the community.
Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg argued strongly in support of the Radisson hotel chain, which she praised for having "the most outstanding hotel architects in the United States, if not the world." Bremberg's motion to select Radisson died for lack of a second.
Radisson had proposed a 20-story, 316-room, wedge-shaped tower of glass and marble topped with a sky lounge.
Day said he preferred Sheraton because of its worldwide reknown, but changed his vote because "the Red Lion is virtually neck-and-neck in my book" with Sheraton. Sheraton originally had proposed a six-story structure with a Spanish-style courtyard but revised its plans to a 315-room high-rise at the city's request.
Zarian said he voted against all three chains because he believes the city should negotiate business agreements before selecting an operator.
Early last year, the city called for bids for a free-standing hotel and parking facility. But plans were changed in November when Allstate, which owns property and office towers adjoining the hotel site, proposed that the city develop a master plan for a larger development that would integrate the hotel with other structures.
Allstate suggested that the city acquire and redevelop all remaining property on the east side of Central between Burchett and Glenoaks Boulevard, including the site of the Shaker Mountain Inn restaurant.
Allstate officials asked that the hotel be combined with a proposed high-rise office building north of Arden and an expansion of an existing parking structure. The plan includes space for restaurants on the expanded site, Shick said.
Representatives of ELS Design Inc., the city's redevelopment design consultant, this week presented several alternative proposals for a master plan, including one to cover the county-owned Verdugo Wash, a concrete flood-control channel. Although it is uncertain whether the proposal would meet with county approval, Glendale officials said the 90-foot-wide span could be used for restaurant development and parking accessible from Glenoaks Boulevard.
Shick said the concept "makes sense. The market in Glendale is very strong. At some point in our history, this area will be developed."
Milner said he likes the idea of a master plan for the entire redevelopment area north of the freeway, despite its late introduction.
"I want to be sure we do it right now rather than end up with something that was not the best we could get," Milner said. "I wish I had been smart enough to think of that from the very beginning."