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
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
"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."