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10-Screen Theater Plan Draws Criticism

May 14, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Plans to build a new 10-screen cinema as the cornerstone for Glendale's first major downtown renovation project met with strong objections this week from the minister of a church that owns the land.

In a study session of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday, developer William Holderness said that the multiplex theater, coupled with a dozen new restaurants, is crucial to revitalizing the two-block area bounded by Brand Boulevard, Broadway, Wilson Avenue and Louise Street.

But the proposal was criticized by the Rev. J. Whitcomb Brougher Jr., pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glendale, who charged that "dirty films" would be shown at the theater and said the church wants no part of such an enterprise. He also said that the church plans to build high-rise senior citizen housing on the proposed theater site.

However, under the powers of eminent domain, the city has the right to determine the ultimate use of the property.

Holderness said he believes "a theater can be incorporated into that site without offending anybody." He said that if the city denies his request to build a cinema, he will withdraw from the renovation project.

Called Great 'Opportunity'

Holderness is seeking to build the theater at the southwest corner of Louise Street and Wilson Avenue, on a site the church is using as a parking lot. "It is high time that Glendale started providing something to do downtown and this is one of the greatest opportunities to do that," he said.

Holderness' firm, Brand Development, has been named by the city as the "master developer" of the block between Maryland Avenue and Louise where he proposes to build the theater. The Howard/Platz Group of Glendale will develop the block between Brand and Maryland.

Unlike previous redevelopment projects in Glendale, in which blocks of stores have been torn down for new high-rise buildings and the Galleria shopping mall, the current project would preserve many of the older buildings and restore them to their original appearance.

The 85-year-old Brougher said he walked out in disgust on the last movie he saw, "On Golden Pond," because he was offended by the "foul, dirty, filthy language" used in the film. In an interview, the Baptist minister said, "I hadn't heard language so filthy since I worked in a logging camp in Oregon when I was 16."

Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda both won Academy Awards for their roles in the 1981 film, which was rated suitable for children with parental guidance by the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

Brougher also warned: "You put a theater in there, and in years to come, you'll have a bunch of trash, right across the street from a church and the YMCA. We ought to be protected from that type of influence."

Owners of all six theaters in Glendale's "Movie Row" along Brand Boulevard said they are interested in relocating to new multiplex facilities, no matter where they are located.

Hard to Fill Theaters

All of the existing theaters were built prior to World War II and feature large auditoriums that are sometimes hard to fill. With the exception of the 1,100-seat Glendale Theatre, which was split into two screens seven years ago, the existing theaters have single screens.

Mayor Ginger Bremberg said she objects to the proposed theater because the site lacks room for parking. However, Susan Shick, deputy redevelopment director, said the theater hours could be restricted to evenings only when the city's proposed 742-space parking garage on Maryland would be largely empty.

Councilman Larry Zarian said a better site for the theater, away from the church, might be the corner of Broadway and Louise where a county welfare office is now located. Shick said the city is having difficulty finding a new location for the welfare office.

The Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday postponed until June 2 any action to finalize agreements with the developers. The agreements would allow property owners to renovate their own buildings according to a master plan or to sell the property to the city which would contract with one of the two developers to complete the job.

Another issue that emerged Tuesday was a proposal by developers to require all property owners to contribute to a mass marketing program to attract tenants and publicize the renovated area, which developers have named "The Exchange." Bremberg said she doubts that property owners are aware of the promotional campaign, which is expected to cost $75,000 initially and $35,000 a year thereafter, to be paid by owners based on property size.

Some Merchants Object

The renovation project also has met with resistance from some merchants who fear they will be forced out of business. The city plans to demolish buildings occupied by seven businesses from 128 to 136 N. Brand Blvd. to make way for a new retail building and passageway to the proposed city parking garage behind.

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