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Burbank’s own shopping Empire

Jackson Bell

Since Burbank Empire Center opened in November 2001, several of the

center’s stores and restaurants are exceeding projections. But some

residents and retailers are feeling the side effects of success.

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Panda Express and Outback Steakhouse are topping their parent

companies in franchise sales, and major retailers Target and Lowe’s

are in the top 10% of sales for their respective companies, according

to Ben Reiling, president of Zelman Development Co., the site

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developer.

Reiling credits the success of the shopping area -- bounded by

Empire Avenue, Buena Vista Street and Victory Place -- with its

proximity to the Golden State (5) Freeway combined with the area’s

population density.

The nearly 1.3-million- square-foot shopping center, built on the

former Lockheed site, includes 18 retail stores and restaurants, two

hotels and 220,000 square feet of office space. City officials say

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the center has been an invaluable resource for generating sales tax.

“Where other cities are losing retail sales, Burbank is gaining

and in the top [quarter] in every regular sales sector [in the Los

Angeles area] except for auto sales,” said Community Development

Director Sue Georgino.

Financial Services Director Derek Hanway said the center’s

performance has exceeded the city’s initial expectations, and he

considers it to be the most important local sector for sales tax

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revenues.

According to the latest figures provided by the city, the Empire

Center accounts for 17.5% of Burbank’s sales-tax revenue. The center,

which counts Costco and The Great Indoors among its biggest

retailers, generated $4.1 million in revenue during the first five

quarters it was in business, according to Bob Elliot, the city’s

assistant financial services director.

Jack Kyser, chief economist for the L.A. County Economic

Development Corp., said the center is successful because Burbank

previously lacked big-name retailers.

“The center has a wonderful location along the I-5 corridor,”

Kyser said. “That part of the [San Fernando] Valley has been

underscored by retail.”

But Kyser warned that the city of Los Angeles might try to tap

into the center’s market by building a large-scale retail center

similar to Burbank’s to revitalize the Pacoima-Sun Valley region.

“There is always somebody ready to steal your pot of gold,” Kyser

said.

Kevin White, a Burbank resident who shops at the center three

times a week, considers the development a “mixed blessing.”

"[The center] is a victim of its own popularity,” he said.

“Burbank used to be nice and quiet, and it is now becoming more like

Los Angeles.”

Nance Avigliano, who owns the nearby Los Angeles Lifting Club at

1031 N. Victory Place, said she has lost as much as 50% of her

business at one time due to heavy traffic heading to and from the

center.


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