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

Artsakh Avenue in Glendale - North Plaza rendering
Pictured is a rendering of a proposed redesign of the northern portion of Artsakh Avenue, located in the heart of downtown Glendale’s art and entertainment district. The project, slated for completion by the summer of 2022, is intended to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment along the two-block street just a stone’s throw from all of the restaurant and entertainment activity along Brand Boulevard.
(Courtesy of 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, replete 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 that 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.

Earlier this 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 on 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 price tag for the overhaul — which includes a year of cultural programming and public art — is pegged at nearly $8.3 million.

It’s a rough estimate that could change, according to Glendale city spokeswoman Eliza Papazian.

When the project came before 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 expected to be a vibrant area adjacent to Brand Boulevard, “but it never lived up to those expectations,” Mayor Ara Najarian said previously.

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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 DJ booth.

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

A plaza planned for the south portion is slated to 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 to rise 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 added.

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

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

Council members were overall enthused by the vision, but expressed concerns about how 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 slated to begin in March 2021.

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