Pickwick Gardens owners are turning to Burbank residents to help determine its fate

Longtime Burbank residents will remember Pickwick Gardens starting off as a swim park with horse stables across the street from it. But the pool and stables are long gone, replaced with banquet halls, conference rooms, a bowling alley and an ice rink.

The Stavert family, which has owned the roughly 9-acre site since 1955, has made changes to Pickwick to keep up with the times. Now, the Staverts are looking to make a major change.

Ron Stavert, president and chief executive of Pickwick Gardens, said on Tuesday that the business has not been the same since the economic downturn in 2008. The conference halls aren't booked as often as before, and attendance has dropped at the bowling alley.

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To top it all off, the ice rink needs repairs, which Stavert estimates will cost in the seven-figure range.

Because of all the problems with the facility, Stavert said it's time that Pickwick Gardens turns the page in its development future.

"It's not something that we just thought about now," he said. "We've been living in this situation for the last 10 years."

The family is not interested in selling the property. However, they are turning to Burbank residents for their input about the facility's future.

The Staverts are teaming up with land developer Shea Properties to embark on an uncommon planning strategy. Rather than bringing an almost-finished plan to residents or Burbank City Council, the two groups will engage in community meetings with residents in the surrounding Rancho District and other areas to determine the best use for the site.

"We're not closing," Stavert said. "We're just trying to figure out what the next chapter will be for the next 60 years."

Stavert added that he does not know or have any specific plans for the propertyand that he wants to hear from his Rancho neighbors and other Burbankers about what they would like to see.

Pickwick Gardens is a unique property in the city because the land is zoned for commercial/recreation — the only one of its kind in Burbank.

If anything other than that land use is suggested for the site, Stavert and Shea Properties would have to go before the City Council and ask for a zoning amendment, Stavert said.

The decision to move forward with redevelopment of the property has not been an easy one for Stavert, 58, and his family. One of Stavert's first jobs was renting inner tubes to customers when Pickwick still had a pool. Additionally, his son and his grandchildren currently work at the facility.

Though the gears are in motion to find a new use for Pickwick, its banquet halls, ice rink and bowling alley will still be open until a final plan has been drafted.

"The times have changed, and the preferences of people have changed," Stavert said. "As much as Pickwick was desirable, it's becoming less desirable or not desirable at all. But we still do a great job. We're not closing our doors, and we'll continue to provide the best possible experience to our customers as we possibly can and for as long as we can."

Suggestions for the future of the property should be emailed to ranchoatriversideandmain.squarespace.com/contact-us.

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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