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Initial design and lease for Armenian American Museum in Central Park approved

Initial design and lease for Armenian American Museum in Central Park approved
The approved concept design for the reconfigured Glendale Central Park block with space for the Armenian American Museum. (Courtesy of City of Glendale)

The early design and lease agreement that would reconfigure Glendale Central Park and make room for the planned Armenian American Museum were approved by the Glendale City Council Tuesday.

Council unanimously agreed on a 55-year lease, with 10-year renewal periods, at $1 annually with the Armenian American Museum and Cultural Center of California.

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They also settled on one of three presented concept designs for the Central Park block, known as the "Grand Steps," which includes a small event lawn and a library cafe terrace as well as a children's garden and "splash play" area.

"I'm OK with … the Grand Steps design, not just because it has more green space, but also the stage and the park area will face the paseo next to [the Museum of Neon Art] and you can see from that stage all the way through to the Americana [at Brand]," Councilman Vartan Gharpetian said.

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Two years ago, city officials agreed to carve out an area in the southwest corner of Central Park for the three-story, roughly 60,000-square-foot museum with an underground garage.

Planning for the museum was also used as a chance to reimagine the space so it could integrate nearby facilities, such as the Central Library and Adult Recreation Center, as well as create new public and recreational spaces.

The proposed redesign is by a local team from the Sausalito-based architectural design firm SWA Group. The redesign leaves the Central Library and Adult Recreation Center untouched and expands the open-space area from roughly 76,000 square feet to almost 93,000 square feet.

Council members were split 4-1 on two recommended changes by city staff to the first-stage design of the museum. Staff asked council to consider limiting the amount the museum property extends on the northernmost edge of the plaza to 15 feet. Museum officials were asking for 30 feet.

Also, staff requested some type of pedestrian walkway into the museum from the north-south paseo between museum and the Adult Recreation Center. Museum officials were instead seeking to construct a partial wall.

Only Councilwoman Paula Devine sided with staff's recommendations, saying the additional 15 feet would remove promised green space for the community, and closing the paseo side of the museum diminishes the goals of "connectivity."

"This is a beautiful design, but I really liked the scheme where there was a passageway so that everything was connected," Devine said. "It seems like this is segregating not integrating, and I just think this whole block is supposed to be a community-oriented place."

The paseo is also the planned location of sculptures dedicated to Glendale's sister cities.

However, Mayor Zareh Sinanyan and council members Gharpetian, Vrej Agajanian and Ara Najarian sided with the museum's proposed design.

"Because the building has such grand and wide entrances on the south side and north side, I don't think we really need that extra opening on the east, I just don't think it's going to add anything." Najarian said.

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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