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Businesses, City Team Up to Revive Downtown : Redevelopment: In an unusual partnership, employers pledge $125,000 toward a study aimed at thwarting deterioration.

September 23, 1993|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Glendale officials have approved an unusual partnership with a consortium of business leaders to map out a strategic plan for the future of Brand Boulevard now that the downtown redevelopment zone has reached the age of maturity.

The Glendale Partners, a group of about 40 business representatives, pledged to contribute $125,000 as their share of a $350,000 marketing survey and development of a new downtown-area master plan, to be completed by next summer.

The five-member City Council, which also serves as the Redevelopment Agency, unanimously endorsed the proposal Tuesday and allocated $225,000 as the city's share toward the balance of the study project.

City officials said the action is believed to be one of the first public-private partnerships formed in which businesses are contributing to the cost of urban planning.

"These are hard times," said Mickey Steinberg, executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering and chairman of a committee that proposed the partnership. "All we can do is come up with the money." The firm is one of the city's largest employers and has its headquarters on Brand Boulevard.

Development of the strategic plan will be led by a 17-member steering committee of business, city and civic leaders under the direction of Steinberg.

He said a new strategy for development of the downtown area is needed because "certain things are starting to appear that may be troublesome."

Steinberg cited a decline in Glendale's share of regional sales tax revenues, an increase in vacant stores in the downtown area, stagnation of building activity and deterioration of housing stock.

He said the state of the downtown area and the city in general is of particular concern to his company, which employs about 1,900 people in Glendale, many of whom live in the city. He said his company is willing to contribute financially because, "what is good for the city of Glendale is good for the people who work with me."

Steinberg said local leaders want Glendale to take steps to avoid the plight of other cities "with a downtown gone bad."

Larry Clarke, a Glendale attorney and president of the Glendale Partners, said the group early this year agreed to help fund the study and take an active role in developing a strategic plan.

Clarke told the council Tuesday that "wide changes are going to take place" and that the city, in partnership with a broad range of community representatives, needs to develop a course of action for the next two decades.

Clarke said the proposed strategy for the downtown area will be the third significant benchmark in the evolution of the redevelopment zone, formed in 1972. The first was formation of the zone and development of the Glendale Galleria shopping mall.

In a second major step, the ELS design consulting firm of Berkeley in 1983 mapped out a master plan for three distinct zones along Brand between the Ventura Freeway and Colorado Street.

That plan calls for a concentration of high-rise office development at the northern end, retail development around the southern end and mixed-use retail, residential, office, hotel and cultural developments in the central area. It also set design guidelines for the size and shape of buildings, development of plazas and fountains and landscaping treatment.

Clarke said a new "vision and master plan" is now needed "to build on the successes of the past 20 years."

The steering committee was formed in April after a leading international urban planner, architect Alex Cooper of New York, met with about 30 representatives of local government, the schools, business and homeowners to outline a proposal for strategic planning.

The $50,000 session was funded by the Glendale Partners as part of their contribution to the $350,000 strategy plan approved by the council this week.

Development of a strategy will include a series of citywide surveys to determine how residents, businesses, workers and merchants envision the future of the downtown area. "We need as much public participation as we can garner," Steinberg said.

Results, including possible zoning ordinances and rules to implement a plan, are expected to be completed by next July. Mayor Larry Zarian, who is a member of the steering committee, said the plan is needed "to make sure we move with the changing times."

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