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Looking Ahead: Old structures, stories to begin anew this year

Largest U.S. IKEA under construction

This fall, Burbank officials and IKEA employees in utilitarian blue-and-yellow garb broke ground ceremoniously at the 22-acre site where the Swedish retailer's largest store in the United States will be built at 805 S. San Fernando Blvd. in Burbank.

Nineteen buildings were demolished to make way for the new store, including warehouses used by Western Studio Services for prop storage.

When completed, the 456,000-square-foot location will replace the existing 242,000-square-foot store a few blocks away at Burbank Town Center, which company officials have said is high-performing and busy. It was the first IKEA in California when it opened in 1990, but now lacks the size and visibility the new one will have, company officials have said.

The new store will boast an underground parking level, a ground level for retail and warehouse areas, as well as a supervised children's play area and an upper level consisting of showrooms, offices and a restaurant. It will have 1,726 parking spots and 86 bicycle parking spaces.

Mayor Bob Frutos has touted the new store's impact, which he said will be "a great boost to our local economy" through more sales tax revenue for the city and a workforce that, at around 450 workers, will be 23% larger than the staff at the current store. In the meantime, the project will create 500 construction jobs.

Future of proposed new air terminal

After a rocky patch in negotiations early last year about a proposed 14-gate replacement terminal at Bob Hope Airport, the city of Burbank and the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority closed out the year with a tentative agreement, in principle, to several conditions for the proposal.

Airport Authority officials have said their target for putting a full proposal for the terminal project before voters in Burbank as required by Measure B is the Nov. 8 general election this year. However, they will have to complete a review of environmental impacts, finalize various project details and gain City Council approval for the project before that can happen.

Airport officials are not wasting time.

They've already created a website specifically for replacement terminal project information, hosted public meetings to discuss the scope of the required environmental study for the project, and, days before Christmas, issued notices to public agencies seeking input by the end of January for scoping the environmental study.

Several more public meetings about the project are anticipated in 2016.

Empire interchange under construction

Major portions of an ongoing interchange construction project on the Golden State (5) Freeway at Empire Avenue is expected to be completed in late 2016, as part of a series of freeway improvements between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista Street that are expected to continue into 2019.

The realignment of San Fernando Boulevard and a new underpass to connect it directly to Empire Avenue is expected to open in late fall, said Kelly Markham, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation.

Markham said the southbound ramps of the new diamond interchange at San Fernando and the permanent elevated railroad tracks, which eliminate street-level railroad crossings at Buena Vista Street and San Fernando Boulevard, are also set to open later this year.

The work is part of a $355-million project, which began in May 2014 and is 15% completed, according to a Caltrans informational website about improvements along the freeway.

Among the other upgrades planned are carpool lanes in each direction of the freeway between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista Street. Reconstruction and widening of the Burbank Boulevard overpass and interchange is also slated to begin once the Empire Avenue interchange is fully opened.

Proposed ban on e-cigarettes

In its first scheduled regular meeting in 2016, the Burbank City Council may direct city staff to begin work toward ultimately banning the use of e-cigarettes in public places and common areas, like with traditional tobacco products, and regulating the sale of the battery-powered nicotine vaporizers.

The existing Secondhand Smoke Control Ordinance prohibits smoking in city parks and facilities, outdoor public areas, sidewalks in downtown Burbank and within 20 feet of entrances, exits and open windows of buildings open to the public.

The ordinance also bans smoking in certain areas of multifamily buildings: indoor common areas, private patios and balconies, swimming areas when children are present and within 5 feet of entrances, exits, walkways and hallways.

The council could also direct the staff to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes at retailers that do not sell other traditional tobacco products or paraphernalia and do not qualify for a tobacco retailer's license through the California State Board of Equalization.

Under city code, a retailer is required to get a state tobacco retailer's license in order to get a tobacco retailer license from the city. However, the state board does not consider e-cigarettes a tobacco product, meaning retailers who sell exclusively e-cigarettes fall into a gray area in Burbank.

There are 113 licensed tobacco retailers in Burbank, but an unknown number of unlicensed e-cigarette retailers.

Completion of Johnny Carson Park

A revitalization project at Johnny Carson Park is on schedule to be completed in February, Burbank's engineer said last month during a City Council meeting.

The work is about 80% finished, despite some challenges and "rework" that have put the project 18% over its original budget. The council approved amendments to fund the additional work, which involves making the park's new sandy creek bed more resistant to erosion and replacing trees that were killed off by a beetle infestation.

Once work on the park project is completed, the city's Public Works Department will turn the park over to the Parks & Recreation Department.

Judie Wilke, director of the parks department, said via email this week that there will be a 90-day maintenance period to allow sprayed-in grass seed and other plantings time to settle.

"So based on that, we are hoping to have the park grand reopening around June 1," Wilke said.

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