Alex Theatre/Glendale, CA

San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Monday, December 20, 2010

Anchors Emerge For Arts District

Glendale: Neon museum, lofts, theater planned for downtown

Downtown: Arts District would have the Alex Theatre at one end and the new Museum of Neon Art at the other. Lofts and a movie theater could also be built.

By Jessica Vernabe

The city of Glendale is starting to lay down the tracks of its proposed arts and entertainment district, with plans to start construction next year on both the future site for the Museum of Neon Art and a recreation-focused mixed-use development.

There is also an unofficial proposal for another mixed-use development that could bring artist lofts and a Laemmle Theatres.

Glendale city officials have been discussing incorporating an arts and entertainment district for about a year, said Philip Lanzafame, the director of Glendale’s community redevelopment and housing department. The district would run north and south mainly along Maryland Avenue and also along Brand Boulevard. Its northern anchor would be the Alex Theatre, near the corner of Brand Boulevard and Wilson Avenue, and its southern anchor would be the future site of the Museum of Neon Art, on Brand Boulevard between Colorado and Harvard streets. The museum plans to move to the site from Los Angeles.

While the city’s leaders have not yet officially established an ordinance incorporating the district into Glendale’s zoning code, the district’s foundation is finally taking shape.

"We’re creating some anchors to build off of and then we can go back and fill in between those anchors other supporting uses, such as restaurants, galleries, night clubs and music venues," Lanzafame said.

"We think that this can become a very exciting part of town, an exciting part of downtown.”

The city’s Redevelopment Agency expects in the spring to begin redeveloping a 6,200-square-foot building it owns, which would serve as the museum’s new home. The agency is also planning to buy a 1,250-square-foot building next to it that would likely serve as a museum workshop. While Lanzafame said it is too soon to tell when the museum would move in, he estimated it could be the following spring.

Mixed-use developments that combine lofts with recreation and dining venues are also in the pipeline.

Entertainment-focused living

On Dec. 7, city officials approved the second design phase for the Broadway Lofts project. The developer is expected to begin demolition of the site’s former building in February and to begin construction toward the middle of next year, Lanzafame said.

The six-story, 165,000-square-foot project proposed by developer American Multifamily Inc. will be located on 200 E. Broadway Blvd., taking the place of the former Circuit City building. It could include a full-service restaurant use; an indoor recreational center with bowling alley, bar and possibly billiard tables; 208 residential lofts and studios; and three levels of subterranean parking with 231 spaces.

The housing portion would be aimed at a younger urban professional population, particularly to those working in the area. Lanzafame said the project as a whole would add to the emerging district.

“It’s a significant property, and it’s right in the middle of this district that we’re outlining,” he said. “The product that they want to pursue fits very nicely with the things we’re working on."

Another proposed mixed-use loft project is also being proposed.

Developer Marc Nathanson, co-chair of Mapleton Investments based in Westwood, is designing a project that would include 40 to 45 artist lofts, restaurants, retail space and a five-screen Laemmle Theater. The project would be located on a lot with city-owned properties at the corner of Maryland and Wilson avenues.

While Nathanson has been in talks about the project with some of the city’s development officials, he has not formally pitched the plan to City Council or the Redevelopment Agency.

The lofts would also be targeted toward those working in or near the city, particularly those in artistic fields, such as animators, Nathanson said.

"I think what we have to do is design the type of dwelling units that people in this demographic are interested in living in," Nathanson said. "We are of the opinion … that Glendale is a very vibrant community, obviously now with the Americana and the Galleria, in addition to the Museum of Neon Art going in there, the Alex Theater in there and hopefully the Laemmle theaters."

Nathanson said that once the project receives the necessary city approvals and permits, it could be built within in about 12 to 18 months.

Targeted by Laemmle

Greg Laemmle, president of Laemmle Theatres, said the theater would fill a gap for movie-goers in the area.

"Basically there’s not an existing art house both in that community and in surrounding areas," Laemmle said. "We believe that there is a large group of potential audience, people that would be interested in seeing these types of films."

Nathanson said he would also like to include in the project the Panda Inn restaurant, which is already located on the city-owned lot, if the restaurant is interested.

While the project has not yet received any kind of approval from the city, Lanzafame said the project sounds like it would fall in line with the city’s goals and could potentially serve as a northern anchor with the Alex Theatre.

The city is also making some upgrades to help boost the district.

A walkway is going to be constructed, allowing pedestrian access from Brand Boulevard and Caruso Way to the city’s library and adult recreation center, Lanzafame said. The city library’s entrance will also be moved from the building’s east side to its north side so it can better connect with other venues in the district.

Lanzafame said the district will ultimately attract more visitors to the city.

"There’s been more attention in the recent past toward the arts, not only culturally but as an economic development tool," he said. "We can bring more people to the city of Glendale that would now be interested in the arts and then discover what else we have to offer.”

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