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Bigger Means Better at This ‘Mega-Mall’

In the beginning, there was the Glendale Galleria.

Then, in classic Hollywood sequel fashion, came Galleria II--a 550,000 square foot spin-off that in 1983 added a Nordstrom department store to the already successful three-level, 35-acre mega-mall, establishing it as a prime shopping attraction for customers from the San Gabriel Valley, as well as the San Fernando Valley.

“I’ve come here every year since I moved to Pasadena,” said Barbara Sieck, 31, taking a break from shopping at the mall, which ranked No. 2 in sales in Los Angeles County in 1989. “I love Ann Taylor. I love Nordstrom.”

A proposed Galleria III promised to be an even bigger blockbuster, with upscale department stores, such as I. Magnin, plus an ice-skating rink or movie theaters. The Glendale Redevelopment Agency issued about $45 million in bonds to buy land for the expansion of the mall, owned by the Donahue-Schriber development company.

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But now, in light of the economic downturn, the project is on hold.

And city officials are concerned that, in spite of the Galleria’s monumental success--or perhaps because of it--a third mall wing may not be the way to go.

Instead, the city is studying the possibility of building an outdoor pedestrian mall similar to an existing shopping district called The Exchange, which recently opened a block away from the Galleria. The Exchange, which City Manager Dave Ramsay likened to Santa Monica’s sharply revamped Third Street Promenade, is a throwback to pre-mall days when shoppers would stroll down brick-paved sidewalks lined with quaint storefronts.

“The question in some consultants’ minds is, is there a trend away from major malls towards more street-oriented shopping?” Ramsay said.

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Still, the Galleria remains the city’s largest source of sales tax revenue. It has been a “cash cow” for the city since it opened in 1976, luring back shoppers who in previous years had taken their business out of the city.

Even in the midst of the current economic slump, on a recent holiday shopping day, the mall’s 6,200 parking spaces were nearly full by mid-morning. Employees had to park in the Los Angeles Zoo’s lot during the busy season. Customers were encouraged to park there as well and take a free 10-minute shuttle ride to and from the mall.

Meanwhile, specially chartered buses all the way from Bakersfield dropped visitors off for a day of shopping at the Galleria. Mary Ann Garza, 33, and Millie Aranda, 40, take advantage of the $10 bus ride every year, and say they rarely venture outside the Galleria’s brick walls.

“I don’t even have enough time to see the whole mall,” Garza said. “We start at the bottom of Nordstrom and work our way up to the second level, then have lunch. It has been confusing, and we have to use maps.”

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GLENDALE GALLERIA GLENDALE * Year opened: 1976

* Retail square footage: 1.3 million

* Anchor stores: Nordstrom, JC Penney, The Broadway, Buffums, Mervyn’s

* Number of stores: 270

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* Estimated 1989-90 sales tax paid to city: $3.59 million

* % of city’s sales tax revenue--18%

* Memorable feature: Early morning “power walkers” use its hallways for exercise.


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