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Laemmle Lofts project inches forward

The City Council on Tuesday took the first step toward approving a number of administrative items that are set to get the Laemmle Lofts project — which has been on the books since 2011 — ready for construction by early 2015.

The council pushed forward a development agreement that solidifies how much the developer of the project, which includes a five-screen Laemmle Theatre, 6,000 square feet of commercial space and 42 residential units in a four-story building, will pay in library and arts impact fees and extends entitlements through 2017. Entitlements currently expire in November.

The Laemmle Lofts project on the northwest corner of Wilson and Maryland avenues has faced a series of obstacles as it was originally tied to the city's defunct redevelopment agency. The former agency provided the land where the Panda Inn currently sits, and $1.5 million in project expenses, plus $1.1 million for 45 spaces of subterranean parking.

However, once state lawmakers killed redevelopment agencies throughout California, the project, which city officials call an anchor for that area of downtown, was stalled. It's taken a series of changes to move the project forward, but city officials said this week the planning headaches are nearing an end.

"This project just seems to be the project that can't get off the ground," said Councilwoman Laura Freidman, adding that she believes the Laemmle Theatre could rejuvenate Glendale's downtown like what the one in Pasadena did for that city's core.

"I'd like to see it finally happen," she said.

Kevin Berresford, owner of Far Niente, a restaurant near the proposed project, said he supports bringing a Laemmle Theatre to Glendale, but he feared the limited parking spaces would put a strain on street and lot parking in the area and his business.

City officials said they are already looking into parking impacts in downtown with the flood of new developments coming onboard and are considering construction of another parking structure. In addition, they are also looking at permitting valet parking on Brand Boulevard for restaurants affected during construction, said City Manager Scott Ochoa.

"Are there plans for additional parking in downtown? Absolutely," he said, adding though that officials have yet to solidify funding sources.

As for the development-impact fees, the council agreed to make the developer, Wilson Maryland Mixed Use LLC of Delaware, pay $7,000 per unit rather than a new fee of roughly $18,700 because the project was in the pipeline when the lower fee was in place.

The council will take a final vote on the development agreement next week.

Rodney Khan, a consultant for the developer, said his client plans to submit construction documents in two to three months once approval is granted and hopes to begin construction by the end of this year or early 2015.


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


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