Alley may become Brand Boulevard project site

A developer planning to build a mixed-use project in the heart of north Brand Boulevard is one step closer to taking over a public alley in the area, which would amplify connections between various existing and proposed new buildings.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday night recommended the City Council approve the alley vacation, which would pave the way for 5,000 square feet of restaurant space fronting Brand Boulevard, nine live-work units on the ground floor and 219 residential apartment units.

Currently, the proposed site, which runs from 409 to 413 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 developer has proposed 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 the proposed restaurants, according to a city report.

The project comes as Glendale is experiencing a major development boom. More than 3,800 units across roughly two dozen buildings are either recently completed, under construction or in entitlement stages.

As the Brand Boulevard project and alley vacation is set for council review, another large multiresidential project featuring live/work units that has already received preliminary council approval has been put on hold.

The council last year granted preliminary approval for the Citi Live/Work Community, which would spread out over four buildings on a 138,600-square-foot site bounded by Milford Street, Orange Avenue, Lexington Drive and Central Avenue. The project features 4,200 square feet of commercial space and 535 live/work units.

But the property owner, Citibank, asked city officials to postpone releasing environmental documents, which are necessary for final council approval, said Senior Planner Roger Kiesel.

Citibank is evaluating alternatives and may decide to move forward with the current design plans or proceed with another developer, according to a letter sent by Citibank to Glendale in February. The developer had been aiming to come before council this month for final approval, Kiesel said.

While apartment projects continue to flow through council chambers, all five candidates running for a single seat on the dais have said the city should reassess downtown development.

The Brand Boulevard project and alley vacation are set for council review on June 3, election day. Officials said at a council meeting this week that the candidate who wins the election may not take office for up to one month after the election as results are verified.

Councilman Ara Najarian, who has been railing against new developments recently, although he had approved others in the past, asked to shelve the Brand Boulevard project's review until after election day.

"There is no rush, there is no hurry," Najarian said.

But City Manager Scott Ochoa said developers would prefer to move forward sooner rather than later.

"To the investment community time is money," he said.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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