A massive $30-million mixed-use project stretching across a 1.3-acre site in downtown featuring 5,000 square feet restaurant space, nine live-work units and 219 apartments was approved by the City Council this week.
The project, known as the Campus, would help activate nightlife in the commercial area of mid-Brand Boulevard, which tends to close down after business hours, council members said. At its maximum height, the multibuilding project, intersected by diagonal passageways, would be eight stories tall on Orange Street and steps down to one-story on Brand Boulevard.
"I think it will be a drawing card," said Councilman Dave Weaver. "We have nothing up in that neck of the woods that pulls people in."
According to the city's zoning rules approved in 2007 to lure development to downtown, the developer, Amidi Group, could have at least 18 stories on the site and, with incentives, 25 stories.
Councilwoman Laura Freidman, pre-empting criticism about the size of the project, reiterated that the council could only vote on the building's design and could not limit its density because of city codes. However, she added she was pleased Amidi Real Estate Group was voluntarily building a smaller project and not adding a skyscraper to the block.
"I think the design is a nice design for what it is," she said.
Glendale's downtown is experiencing the largest building boom in years with more than 3,800 units either recently completed, under construction or in the entitlement process, and all the new construction has prompted an anti-development sentiment among many residents fearful of traffic impacts.
Councilman Ara Najarian voted against the project because he believes the city should slow down development downtown. He was the sole dissenting vote.
The project consists of a series of terracing buildings, includes open space plazas and pedestrian connections, and incorporates decorative, sliding-glass doors on balconies facing the courtyards for an ever-changing facade controlled by the tenants.
Currently, the proposed site, which runs from 409 to 411 N. Brand Blvd., consists of an existing restaurant, Gaucho's Village, and office buildings on Brand Boulevard as well as an existing parking structure on the southeast corner of Orange and Milford streets, which would not be replaced.
Gaucho's Village, which has been on Brand Boulevard for 14 years, is slated to move to the La Cubana restaurant at 135 N. Maryland Ave.
The council also OK'd replacing the first public alley west of Brand Boulevard and north of Lexington Drive with a diagonal walkway stretching into a proposed central courtyard. The walkway would provide open space and outdoor seating for two proposed restaurants, according to a city report.
The 66,000-square-foot project will include a four-level subterranean parking garage with 545 spaces, 138 of which will replace the demolished parking structure that serves the nearby Glendale Federal Savings & Loan and Glen Fed Annex buildings.
Although the spots will cover the spaces necessary for the annex building, the developer is not required to add parking spaces for the historical savings and loan building.
However, 111 spaces could be added on the site with tandem and valet parking, if needed, according to the city report. City officials plan to study the parking situation at the savings and loan building after the project is completed to decide to see if they need more parking. If they decide there is extra demand, officials would require Amidi Group to implement the valet plan.
"This, I believe, is a project that this particular part of Glendale needs really badly," said Mayor Zareh Sinanyan.