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DEVELOPMENT—Will Town Center Elbow Out Glendale Galleria?

Rick Caruso of Caruso Affiliated Holdings has beaten out J.H. Snyder Co. in a tightly drawn contest to develop a $150 million urban marketplace and community center in Glendale’s downtown corridor, just a stone’s throw from the Glendale Galleria. Caruso and Snyder were the final two left standing after 15 developers placed bids on the project known as Town Center. The project is planned for 15 acres at Colorado Street and Brand Boulevard. Although the project is labeled “mixed use,” odds are the retail component could compete with the Galleria. Caruso said most future tenants at Town Center would be retailers, but they will be businesses that complement existing retailers at the Galleria, which draws roughly 22 million shoppers each year. “I think we are talking about more lifestyle and home furnishings, entertainment-oriented retailers, and a whole bunch of different types of restaurants,” Caruso said. “We think our project will help the mall and the mall will help us.” Caruso also said retailers have bypassed Glendale in the past in favor of Pasadena and other cities because they preferred to be outdoors. Such development projects in Glendale have been difficult to come by. Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., said, prior to the recession of the 1990s, the city of Glendale and the Galleria were in negotiations to expand the mall to the exact location where Town Center will be. “But they backed off because of lack of anchors, and then came the slowdown in the economy,” said Kyser. He said Caruso has a “very, very good track record” at building retail/commercial projects with community gathering places at their cores. However, he agreed that the mix of retailers who ultimately move into Town Center will have to be carefully selected if existing businesses are not undermined. “It’s going to have to be a very crafty mix, but also it has to be a mix that works to attract people into Glendale,” Kyser said. Cindy Chong, vice president and general manager of the Galleria, said until Town Center retailers are pinned downed, the mall has no comment on the project. “Since the project is in the conceptual stages we don’t have very much to say about it,” Chong said. “However, we are optimistic that it will be complementary to the Galleria retailers and we look forward to hearing more. Fifteen years later The Glendale City Council, acting as the redevelopment agency, approved the Caruso proposal unanimously last week, finally setting in motion plans to develop the project, long delayed because of design and developer changes over the last 15 years. Caruso has proposed an open-air retail/commercial complex with national and local tenants, as well as some residential space. But key to the project and one that the agency and city council members have all but demanded be included is an outdoor community gathering place, which he said “would serve as the heart and soul of Glendale’s downtown district.” “I think it was a very close competition with Jerry,” said Caruso. “But I think that the agency was impressed with our experience in creating (outdoor community gathering spaces) that combine small and large retail and commercial tenants.” Caruso built the Promenade at Westlake Village and the Commons at Calabasas. He is also working on The Grove at Farmers Market on Fairfax Avenue and Third Street. The city of Glendale owns roughly half of the 15 acres earmarked for Town Center. Over the next few weeks the redevelopment agency will finalize exclusive rights to negotiate a sale price for the other half. Caruso said he hopes to get construction underway in about one year and complete the project roughly a year later. Although Jeanne Armstrong, Glendale’s director of development services, praised the Caruso proposal, she called the timeline a “very ambitious schedule.” “Anything is possible,” she said. “But we still have to build community consensus about the project, and complete, very quickly, the environmental review process.” Snyder’s proposal also included an outdoor pedestrian gathering place. But Armstrong said Caruso’s architect, Austin, Texas-based David Manfredie, did a better job at convincing the board it would make the community center the core focus of the project, before thinking about how to fit retailers, commercial space and residential quarters around it.

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