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Planning board recommends approval of mixed-use project on Front Street

Burbank City Hall
The Burbank Planning Board has recommended approval of a mixed-use project at 777 N. Front St. It is proposed to have 573 residential units and a 307-room hotel.
(File Photo)

A proposed mixed-use development with 573 residential units, commercial space and a hotel in downtown Burbank appears to be one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Burbank Planning Board voted 4-1 recently to recommend approval to the City Council for the project called LaTerra Select Burbank.

It would be built on a 7-acre lot at 777 N. Front St., a site that has stood vacant for many years next to the 5 Freeway between Burbank and Magnolia boulevards.

The project is broken up into three main segments — a seven-story apartment building with 252 units, an eight-story building with 321 units and a seven-story, 307-room hotel.

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Leonard Bechet, a senior planner for Burbank, said the project is expected to incorporate a 1,067-square-foot commercial/retail space that applicant LaTerra Development plans to use as a public gallery, 1,168 parking spaces and a roughly 28,000-square-foot public open space.

Bechet said the developer will also provide a pedestrian access point at Magnolia Boulevard — with a staircase and elevator — that would link the project to the Metrolink station in downtown Burbank.

Charles Tourtellotte, president and chief executive of LaTerra Development, said the project was first introduced 3½ years ago as one building with 500 apartments.

However, after input from the public and community leaders, he said the project was changed to help the city address its housing needs and the community’s transportation needs.

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“It’s really come a long way since then,” Tourtellotte said.

Bechet said the units would be about 500 square feet each.

The developer is slated to make investments toward utility and street improvements as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure around the site.

The overall cost for the public benefits is estimated to be about $33.6 million, Bechet said.

While the project would help reach the city’s goal of constructing 12,000 units over the next 15 years, Bechet said the project has some drawbacks, specifically for traffic around the site.

An environmental impact report for the project identified two intersections — the southbound 5 Freeway exit at Front Street and Burbank Boulevard as well as Victory Place and Burbank Boulevard — where traffic impacts could not be mitigated.

Bechet said traffic in those areas is projected to be significant after the project is completed, and it’s expected that traffic overall would increase.

Board member Nazafarin Hadian said she was in favor of having the site developed, but she did not support the project because of the adverse impacts the project would have on traffic and air quality.

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“I’m really not sure how future residents of the proposed building[s] will enjoy fresh air when they open their windows to the 5 Freeway,” she said.

She suggested the project have fewer units to reduce the overall size of the buildings and their proximity to the freeway.

Apraham Atteukenian, chairman of the planning board, said that every development will have its pros and cons, including the Front Street project.

He said he understands the site is a challenging property to build on and he thinks officials with LaTerra Development have done their best to address concerns.

“We need to take a more global approach,” Atteukenian said. “Sure, there are deficiencies, but there are many pluses.”

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