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Individual Owners May Get Voice in Redevelopment Plans

September 13, 1990|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Glendale Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday unanimously adopted a developmental concept that, for the first time since downtown revitalization began 18 years ago, encourages individual property owners to work together to improve their area.

The concept would permit individual owners to renovate or replace their buildings in a two-block area south of Broadway. In the past, owners of smaller properties generally have been forced to sell their holdings in the downtown area to make way for large-scale, high-rise projects by single developers, Jeanne Armstrong, redevelopment director, said.

But now, with a great demand for office space, low-rise buildings in the area are economically feasible, she said.

The concept was bolstered in part by the agency's growing concern over increasing traffic congestion from large-scale developments.

And, Armstrong said, downtown redevelopment "is moving so well that, with encouragement, the economic forces will take the lead, as they should," allowing property owners to make their own improvements.

"We don't want to force the market into anything it is not ready for," she added.

She said a key to the plan is the city's willingness to build a parking garage to serve new development and renovation in the area bounded by Brand Boulevard on the west, Louise Street on the east, Broadway on the north and Harvard Street on the south. Much of the area consists of parking lots or buildings that are badly deteriorated, ugly, vacant or beyond repair.

A city-sponsored garage would make reconstruction or development of new retail space financially feasible, Armstrong said. The development design adopted Tuesday by the agency, which consists of the five Glendale City Council members, calls for two parking garages. One, to be built by the agency on the northeast corner of Harvard Street and Maryland Avenue, would have 820 spaces. The other would have space for 370 vehicles and be built privately for office development on Brand Boulevard.

Armstrong told agency members that "the amount of parking which the agency and private sector together provide will set the limits on the total development" in the two-block area.

Previously, individual owners along Brand generally had only small lots and did not have the economic resources or interests to take on a block-long project, Armstrong said. Today, however, property owners have larger parcels and appear willing to participate in redevelopment.

"What we have is a blueprint for development and we will work with individual property owners to encourage them," she said.

The proposal would extend the "Exchange," a two-block area north of Broadway. The renovation project features a pedestrian-oriented treatment of Maryland Avenue, decorated with stately palm trees and bubbling fountains.

Two "master developers" were named in that area to oversee reconstruction and development. Many of the owners of small lots there simply sold their property or were forced by the city to sell to the master developer of their block.

Armstrong said the city has no plans yet to select a master developer for the area south of Broadway. Instead, the agency is asking individual owners to come up with their own plans.

"We think we have enough interest there to do without a master developer," Armstrong said. She said the interest became evident in March when a large group of owners and developers crammed into an agency study session to learn more about proposed expansion of the Exchange.

Seven years ago the property owners wanted to develop their own renovation plans, but the city turned them down, opting instead to pursue a more grandiose plan consisting of retail and office space plus condominiums.

Plans for that development, called the Colonnades, fell through in 1984 because the developer, Goldrich, Kest & Associates of Sherman Oaks, decided that it wanted to build apartments and a residential hotel instead of condominiums--a plan the city did not like--and because the developer failed to meet financial commitments.

City officials estimated that the Exchange, just east of the Glendale Galleria, may not be ripe for high-density development for at least 15 years, if ever. In the meantime, construction and renovation are feasible, they say.

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