A Chicago development company said last week that it has bought land on which it will build two office buildings and an outdoor plaza across from the Glendale Galleria.
Homart Development Co., one of the nation's largest shopping center and office building developers, announced the purchase of 4.23 acres for more than $16 million. The site is bounded by Broadway Street, Brand Boulevard, Wilson Avenue and Orange Street.
The plaza will give downtown shoppers a place to rest and the city a sort of town square, planners said.
"The Homart complex, with its pedestrian retail orientation, will provide a physical and functional link between the Glendale Galleria and the center of downtown," said Barbara Knight, acting deputy director of the city Redevelopment Agency.
The plaza is to have a fountain and occasional live entertainment, such as carolers during the Christmas season, Homart officials said.
Homart, a Sears, Roebuck & Co. subsidiary, will spend $150 million on the complex, said Chris Stirling, a Homart official. Construction is to begin by late summer, and the project is to be completed by 1994.
The plaza will be between 18- and 22-story office towers.
Besides bringing more tax revenue and jobs, the complex will improve parking downtown, Knight said. Its 2,600 parking spaces will be available to Galleria shoppers on weekends and holidays.
"It's a positive step," Knight said. "The whole block has been vacated for years, and we've been trying to do something about it."
Nearby merchants have long complained that the vacant lot, surrounded by a deteriorating fence, is an eyesore in the heart of the city's retail district. But some city officials are concerned that the project will lead to increased traffic congestion downtown.
In August the City Council, sitting as the city Redevelopment Agency, approved 3 to 2 a Homart request to enlarge the office and ground-floor retail space by 90,000 square feet to a total of 790,000, clearing the way for the purchase. Council members Larry Zarian and Ginger Bremberg voted against the enlargement.
Knight said the impact of the increase in traffic will be minimal because the developers will be required to include such mitigating measures as restriping adjacent streets, adding left-turn signals, and planning traffic circulation in and out of the Homart garages.
Zarian disagreed, saying the enlargement will help slow downtown traffic to a "near-gridlock" level.
"The growth of our city depends on how much traffic we can handle, not on the space available for development," he said.
"This is a very good community with a pro-business attitude," Homart's Stirling said. "We are committed to Glendale and will continue looking for opportunities in the retail and office sectors."
Homart bought the land from the American Trading Real Estate Co., which cleared it five years ago and planned to build two office buildings.
American Trading abandoned the plan, citing unfavorable economic conditions and disagreements with the city.
Homart, a Chicago-based company, said it has developed 61 U.S. shopping centers in its 28 years of existence.