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Agency Gives Tentative OK to 7-Year-Old Building's Face Lift : Redevelopment: A Brand Boulevard office complex is the first to plan improvements to keep pace with even newer, tonier structures.

June 14, 1990|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Glendale Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday granted preliminary approval for renovation of a prominent Brand Boulevard office building--but one that is only 7 years old.

Owners of the 12-story building at 330 N. Brand Blvd. plan to construct a glass-walled lobby entrance to the building and make extensive improvements to elevators, upper-floor lobbies and other public areas to compete with the tonier buildings recently completed or under construction in Glendale.

Renovation of existing buildings has not been unusual in Glendale in recent years, but the projects undertaken have involved sprucing up parts of the "old town," such as a two-block area at Brand and Broadway, where 50-year-old brick structures are being revitalized into The Exchange.

The latest proposed face lift would mark the first renovation of a relatively new building in Glendale's booming redevelopment zone and is part of a trend toward construction of higher-quality buildings, city officials said.

Redevelopment Director Jeanne Armstrong said in a report to the agency that the extensive renovation "is extraordinary for a major office building that is only 7 years old."

The 330 N. Brand building was completed in 1983, before the agency's adoption of design guidelines that now set stringent standards for construction of downtown redevelopment projects. Early redevelopment buildings were constructed of drab, pre-cast concrete, for example, while the more recent structures are clad in granite and feature posh lobbies and expensive artistic appointments.

Although the 330 N. Brand building won architectural awards and national acclaim at the time it was built, officials said its street-level brick and concrete plaza, accented by a concrete and fiberglass cascading waterfall, now appear dreary contrasted with new developments.

The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Assn. of America, which purchased the building from Cabot, Cabot & Forbes several years ago, plans to spend several hundred thousand dollars to build a glass-walled lobby that will be brighter, provide greater security and block the wind that whistles through the now open, tunnel-like entry, said Debra Parker, the building manager.

In addition, owners plan to use stone to upgrade the cascading wall of water that lures visitors into the plaza from Brand Boulevard.

Parker said the building "was on the forefront of Glendale's redevelopment boom of the mid-1980s in a city which has evolved into the state's third-largest financial center." But, she said, the improvements are needed "to retain existing tenants as well as attract new ones."

William Boyd, a commercial sales consultant with Coldwell Banker who has monitored changes in Glendale's redevelopment zone for 10 years, said the improvements planned at the 330 N. Brand building will lead to further changes downtown.

"The reason is tenant migration," Boyd said. "The type of tenants coming to this market have continued to be increasingly more professional firms and less labor-intensive firms."

He said the huddled "back office" workers of insurance companies and banks--computer data processors, administrative and operational clerks--are being moved by their companies to less expensive facilities elsewhere, such as Monrovia and other areas of the east San Gabriel Valley.

Their space in Glendale is being taken up by new corporations coming to town, such as the Carnation Co., lawyers and other professionals that can afford to pay the rents that a Brand Boulevard address now commands.

Rents have jumped by more than 50% in the last 10 years, Boyd said, while the amount of office space has increased from 1.5 million square feet prior to 1983 to an anticipated 4 million square feet.

"Glendale started out as a secondary 'back office' location and now, in just 10 years, has matured into a primary office market," Boyd said. "This office market is still relatively young compared to most other office markets, yet we have seen a tremendous maturity."

Glendale City Council members, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, said they hope that in granting permission to upgrade the 330 N. Brand building, they may also persuade owners to make other improvements, such as camouflaging prominent rooftop mechanical equipment.

Armstrong said in her report that changes "will reap a noticeable aesthetic improvement for the building and for the Glendale skyline."

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