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Plans to transform Glendale’s little-known art and entertainment district move forward

Artsakh Avenue in Glendale - North Plaza rendering
A rendering of a proposed redesign of the northern portion of downtown Glendale’s Artsakh Avenue, intended to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment a stone’s throw from Brand Boulevard.
(City of Glendale and Studio One Eleven)

In a little over two years, visitors to Glendale’s art and entertainment district might find a bustling pedestrian haven with outdoor dining, an interactive play zone for kids, planned and spontaneous performances, and art everywhere from overhead to eye level to underfoot.

At least that’s the intention of Glendale officials who are forging ahead with a redesign of Artsakh Avenue, which makes up the heart of the district and is sometimes overlooked in the city’s downtown area. It runs from Wilson Avenue to Harvard Street.

Last month, the project moved one step closer to realization when Glendale City Council members approved the design and technical development of the two-block area into a one-way street with an extended sidewalk and ample pedestrian space, with several conditions.

“What we’re trying to do is make this an attractive place, and, specifically, I think we’re trying to make it an attractive place for younger people,” Councilman Frank Quintero said during a special council meeting Dec. 17, adding that he would like to see digital art incorporated.

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Slated to be completed by spring or summer of 2022, the overhaul — which includes a year of cultural programming and public art — is pegged at a price of nearly $8.3 million.

It’s a rough estimate that could change, Glendale spokeswoman Eliza Papazian said.

When the project came before the council in late August, it was projected to be completed a year earlier and cost about $1 million less.

Maryland Avenue, which was developed about 30 years ago and renamed Artsakh in 2018, was envisioned as a vibrant area adjacent to Brand Boulevard, “but it never lived up to those expectations,” Mayor Ara Najarian has said.

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The hope is that this project will finally breathe life into what the city designated as its art and entertainment district in 2012.

Both the north and south stretches of Artaskh, as well as a public alley, will see significant renovations, according to the latest plans conceived by city staff and consultant Studio One Eleven.

On the north portion, an outdoor plaza is expected to include games and seating, and an overhead shade element.

The plaza could be temporarily cordoned off for events and is designed to accommodate pop-up booths, a food truck, communal tables and a deejay booth.

It could also be used to host classes and events such as outdoor yoga, said Bradley Calvert, Glendale’s assistant director of community development.

A plaza planned for the south portion would include a modular stage made from movable furniture, rotating wall art, a large sculptural piece and overhead art, as well as a play area for children.

A large gateway sign is planned near the intersection of Broadway and Artsakh to brand and identify the district, Calvert said.

Concentration of the most visually stimulating aspects of the plan in the southern stretch is by design.

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Besides providing more space than the northern area, “the southern portion is also absent of things to really activate it right now,” Calvert said.

Meanwhile, the north section already has activity tied to restaurants, stores and a nearby theater, he said.

“We felt it would be important and necessary to really put a lot of emphasis on the southern block and use these three kind of large art moves to really gravitate people to the area,” Calvert said.

A call for will be issued for local artists interested in designing public artwork, as well as several monument signs that will be located along the street.

An alley abutting the Exchange parking garage will also be tentatively rebranded as “the Artery” and will have new signage, landscaping and adjacent rooftop amenities, according to the plan.

Council members overall were enthused by the vision, but they expressed concerns that the single-direction street design could cause a problem for traffic flow out of a parking garage located on the southern portion of the street.

“If it’s one lane — I assume there will be some times when people, they go to movies and other places, and they get out together — there will be [so much] traffic here that causes the [traffic] to stop and create some problems,” Councilman Vrej Agajanian said, echoing several other council members.

A traffic consultant assured council members that the changes would not cause a major issue.

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A majority of council members also requested that the final design incorporate references to the region the street was named after. The Republic of Artsakh is a contested region in the South Caucasus, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but home to a large Armenian population.

Construction documents for the project will be prepared beginning next month, based on an estimated timeline.

In March, the council will tentatively determine how to move forward with eight city-owned retail units located in the area, Papazian said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2021.

Seidman writes for Times Community News.


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