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Plan Endorsed to Develop Area Near Galleria

December 08, 1988|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

After years of negotiations to develop a prime downtown Glendale block that has long been deemed an eyesore, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday endorsed a contract with a major Chicago developer who proposes to build office towers and a shopping plaza north of the Glendale Galleria.

Despite concerns about increasing traffic in Glendale's downtown redevelopment zone, members of the city's redevelopment agency voted 3 to 2 to contract with Homart Development, of Chicago, to build the office and retail complex on the mostly vacant block bordered by Broadway, Brand Boulevard, Wilson Avenue and Orange Street.

One- and 2-story buildings in the block, including the historic Egyptian Village Cafe, were razed 4 years ago to make way for construction of two office buildings proposed earlier by another developer, American Trading Real Estate, of Baltimore.

The redevelopment agency gave that project tentative approval in 1983, but the city and the developer never reached agreement on the design of the proposed 12-story rectangular towers, which the city's architectural consultant criticized as "warehouse space in the sky."

Nearby merchants have long complained that the site, surrounded by a deteriorating pink and mauve construction fence, is an eyesore in the center of the city's key retail district.

Officials of American Trading announced last year that they were willing to give up their development proposal, citing unfavorable economic conditions and the disagreement with the city.

The redevelopment agency has grappled ever since with the question of what to do with the block. Several members said they favor development of a high-end retail center there to attract the large number of shoppers from the local region who patronize tony shops in Beverly Hills rather than the Galleria.

However, Homart is proposing a larger office complex--with 18- and 22-story towers--than the American Trading project with less retail space. Two members of the redevelopment agency, Ginger Bremberg and Larry Zarian, voted against the proposal Tuesday, saying the higher office towers will overwhelm the neighborhood and create excessive traffic problems. An office tower in the adjoining Galleria is 10 stories, and most retail buildings, including the Galleria, are no more than 3 stories high.

During a study session last June, agency members said they favor a mixed development of about 600,000 square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of retail space, as was proposed by American Trading. Homart's plans call for 715,000 square feet of office space and 75,000 square feet of retail space.

The three other agency members--Carl Raggio, Jerold Milner and John Day--have since argued that office development generates less daytime traffic than a retail center, such as the Galleria. Besides, they contend, development of the prime site is long overdue.

The Homart proposal calls for construction of the office towers above shopping arcades, with restaurants surrounding an expansive central plaza. The shopping areas could be linked to the surrounding retail area by pedestrian bridges, said Susan Shick, deputy redevelopment director.

Homart is proposing to develop the block without financial assistance from the city, said Christopher T. Stirling, the company's Western region development director. Other recent projects in the redevelopment zone have required some government funds.

The proposed development must still go through a series of hearings before the city grants final approval.

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