Residents critical of Caruso plan

Josh Kleinbaum

Less than an hour after Rick Caruso defended his design for the Town

Center, specifically accusations by General Growth Properties that it

would create a "fortress" downtown, a string of Glendale residents

criticized his plan, and General Growth insinuated that it would take

legal action to prevent Caruso's proposal.

Caruso, the developer of record for the proposed 15.5-acre

residential and commercial campus in downtown Glendale, shrugged off

the idea that his proposal would create an enclosed block that is

unfriendly to neighboring businesses and create ugly sight lines from

outside the complex, at a joint public hearing of the Redevelopment

Agency and the Environmental Planning Board to consider the

environmental impact report for the project.

General Growth, owner of the Glendale Galleria, has submitted an

alternate proposal with less retail. The company has hammered

Caruso's proposal with a massive public-relations campaign, including

a mailer sent to all Glendale residents.

"It is not a fortress, as claimed by the owner of the enclosed

mall," Caruso said. "I believe very firmly in having an open and

healthy public debate about all of these issues. For that, we are

grateful to our neighbors at the Galleria, but it's also important to

make sure we're discussing fact, not innuendos or insinuation. There

are no 75-foot walls. These buildings are capped at 65 feet and have

balconies and landscaping."

Caruso also said he would not put billboards on the walls if the

city did not want them, although he felt billboards could help the

movie theater.

Clearly, Caruso's message did not sink in for the audience at the

meeting. More than 30 members of the public requested to speak at the

meeting, most criticizing Caruso's proposal. Many cited the large

walls they thought Caruso's plan would create, and some complained

about Caruso's proposal to close Harvard Street from traffic and

transform it into a pedestrian promenade.

"We keep hearing about a big blank wall," said David Moreno,

president of the Rossmoyne Mountain Homeowners Assn. "What did they

do with it [at The Grove]? They covered it with billboards. One for

Apple, one for beer, and I'm not quite sure if that's what we want.

We want to see the quality of life preserved here in Glendale. Please

don't close the streets, and we don't want billboards."

Caruso was the developer of The Grove in Los Angeles.

A handful of representatives of both General Growth and

Robinsons-May, one of the largest department stores in the Galleria,

argued against Caruso's Town Center proposal. Amy Forbes, an attorney

representing General Growth, said the environmental impact report is

"significantly flawed." She did not say General Growth would go to

court if the city approved the report, but she did cite legal cases

which would support General Growth's claim.

City officials have said if General Growth challenges the project

in court, it would likely be a challenge of the environmental impact

report.

"The analysis needs to be updated, made accurate and be

reevaluated," Forbes said. "We think, when that happens, you'll see

that [General Growth's proposal] is superior."

Caruso called General Growth's gambit nothing more than a

public-relations campaign to try to stop the project and protect its

investment in the Galleria -- which the company bought in 2002 -- and

said he expects a lawsuit.

"When you start pressuring your anchor tenants to come out and

oppose a project, you're scared to death of competition," Caruso

said. "Why have a lawyer here if you're not planning on suing?"

Forbes said General Growth is not trying to push Caruso out of the

project and would be happy if Caruso developed their proposal, but

Caruso scoffed at that idea.

"We will not build [General Growth's proposal], because it's a bad

plan designed by people that have never designed or operated an

outdoor center," Caruso said. "It's a recipe for disaster."

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