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Hotel May Be Built on Site of Elks Lodge

August 16, 1990|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new hotel is about to rise out of the ashes of the Glendale Elks Lodge, which was destroyed by an arson fire more than four years ago.

Club officials and a developer said they expect within a week to sign an agreement to replace the historic building at 120 E. Colorado St. with a five-story, 162-room business-class hotel and a new three-story lodge building.

Only the gutted remnant of the 1917 lodge, which was listed on the city's roster of historic places and had one of the largest auditoriums of any Elks facility in the nation, has occupied the site since the $2-million blaze in January, 1986.

The agreement would grant the developer, the Howard-Platz Group of Glendale, a long-term lease on the property, said P. Dennis Keenan, attorney for the Elks. Terms of the agreement and financial arrangements have not been disclosed.

The Elks had announced a tentative agreement with Howard-Platz in November, 1988. They have been working since then to complete terms and development plans. "It's been a struggle," Keenan said.

Developers originally had proposed building a four-story office and commercial building on the site. Those plans, however, were dropped because of extensive new office development in the nearby downtown redevelopment zone, representatives of the Elks and the developer said.

The latest proposal, which has preliminary city approval, is to build the hotel on the Colorado Street frontage with the new Elks lodge to the rear, on Elk Street.

Demolition at the site is expected to begin within a few weeks, Keenan said.

The hotel will be a franchise of Compri Hotels of Phoenix, a nationwide hotel chain that includes facilities at Los Angeles International Airport and in San Pedro, company officials said.

The hotel will be smaller and have fewer amenities than the Red Lion Inn now under construction at the north end of the redevelopment zone. The 350-room, 18-story Red Lion will have convention facilities, whereas the Compri will have only smaller meeting rooms, said Stephen Finney of Charles Walton and Associates, project architect.

Economic feasibility studies indicate that a need still exists for a mid-price business hotel in Glendale, he said.

The Elks project had been delayed for months because developers needed variances to permit the hotel to exceed height limits in the area and to build less parking than normally required.

Both the hotel and the Elks lodge will be served by a single 240-space parking garage. Most of the parking will be underground, but surface parking will be provided on the ground floor of the three-story lodge.

The proposed height of the hotel is only slightly higher than now permitted and allows for special architectural features, said Kathy Marcus, zoning administrator. The variances were approved by the city about two weeks ago, she said.

Construction is expected to begin in several months once final specifications for the project are approved by the city, with construction taking about 14 months, Keenan said.

Residents have complained for years that the gutted building at the south end of the downtown redevelopment zone is an eyesore. Since the fire, the Elks have continued to sponsor bingo games and operate a bar in a building that was added to the rear of the lodge in the 1940s.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is a national fraternal organization started in 1868 to further brotherhood, patriotism and community service. Membership in the Glendale lodge peaked 20 years ago at about 1,900 but has dwindled steadily to fewer than 600 today.

Just a few months before the fire, the Elks had sought to have the dilapidated building's historic designation removed so the club could have it razed. Club officials said the building had become costly to maintain and was too large for the club's shrinking membership. The building also needed a renovation that was expected to cost $1 million.

The Elks sought an exemption from city rules prohibiting demolition of historic buildings, but the fire occurred before the request had been acted on.

No suspects have been named, and arson investigators said they ruled out any club involvement in the fire.

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