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Prime Site May Get New Developer

November 05, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Glendale Redevelopment Agency will seek a new developer to build on a prime site that has stood vacant for three years in the heart of the downtown redevelopment area.

The land, at 101 N. Brand Blvd., between Broadway and Wilson Avenue, is owned by American Trading Real Estate Co. Inc., which proposed several years ago to build twin, 12-story office towers. Preliminary plans were approved by the agency despite criticism from some city officials that the rectangular design of the proposed towers was ugly. Don Logan, the city's design consultant, described the towers as "warehouse space in the sky."

Despite the disagreement, the Redevelopment Agency in 1983 approved the preliminary design and American Trading announced that it would start construction within a year. The one- and two-story shops along the block were leveled shortly afterward, but nothing further has been done.

The developer blames the delay not only on the disagreement with the city over the design, but also economic conditions. Sam Wells, vice president of the Baltimore firm, said Tuesday that his company has been unable to obtain a major tenant to pre-lease space in the 680,000-square-foot project, the largest office development ever proposed in Glendale.

Wells said his company is unwilling to move forward because a million square feet of new office space has recently been completed in the downtown area and he is worried that the city may have a glut of vacant space. "One doesn't do a $100-million project, then leave it sitting virtually empty," Wells said.

Susan Shick, executive redevelopment director, disagrees. She has repeatedly urged the city to plan new construction years in advance so that office and retail space is available as the demand arises.

But Wells also said his company has not ironed out objections by the city staff to the design of his project since preliminary approval was obtained four years ago. "We have never really been able to get beyond that point, even though we have done all kinds of revisions," Wells said.

Wells verified that the company is considering selling the parcel to another developer. "A number of interested parties have come to us," he said. "That is one of the better sites in Southern California."

Redevelopment Agency Chairman Carl W. Raggio said the city is proposing what he calls "costlier and more sophisticated" shops, combined with offices in a spacious plaza. He said the center could provide a focal point and transitional link from the Galleria shopping mall--directly south of the site--to shops along Brand. City design consultants recommend that water fountains, outdoor cafes and entertainment areas be incorporated into a large plaza area.

Area for Strolling

"I envision it as a place where people would come to stroll," said Raggio, who, along with other officials, has criticized the fortress-like, closed-in appearance of the Galleria, with its brick walls that face surrounding streets.

Shopkeepers on Brand have long complained that their businesses are isolated from the Galleria and that the large vacant parcel adjacent is economically depressing to the downtown area.

"That block is a void in the central part of town," said Aulden Schlatter, executive director of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce. He said selection of a new developer "would be a very positive move."

Michael D. Moro, president of the Downtown Merchants Assn., said the vacant block and other areas along Brand where buildings were leveled but not replaced are "like a smile with teeth missing."

Moro said he was delighted to hear that the redevelopment agency is seeking a new developer. "We've all been anxiously awaiting some development there for a long time," he said. "I just hope the city picks somebody who will move right away."

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