As one of the individuals who has spoken out in favor of the
Americana at Brand, I feel I must respond to the letter from Steven
A. Wells (News-Press June 4).
We are not, as Mr. Wells implies, blindly pining for the Americana
at Brand in some type of altruistic stupor. Rick Caruso is one of the
busiest and most prolific developers in the country. The reason why:
He has a proven track record of producing high-quality, desirable
projects that work in harmony with the communities in which they are
situated. The Grove at Farmers Market is a shining example of this,
but also the Commons in Calabasas and the Promenade in Westlake
Village exude the same quality and functionality that are a Caruso
hallmark. Caruso has been tapped to build another mixed-use
development near another Southern California landmark, Santa Anita
Racetrack in Arcadia, and he is moving forward with another
large-scale project in Marina del Rey.
As a successful businessman, Mr. Caruso is not going to get
involved in a project in which he doesn't make money, but that is not
his sole interest. He takes pride in his work and works with the
local community, as he has with Glendale by including a residential
component, eliminating billboards and adjusting the retail mix to fit
the desires of residents.
As far as the comments by others to boycott the Glendale Galleria,
I now agree that the notion is misguided. I have come to the
conclusion that it will only serve to penalize the retailers who are
not directly associated with General Growth and to penalize Glendale
with reduced sales-tax revenue. In addition, the Glendale Galleria
draws most of its customers from outside of Glendale. These outside
residents will most likely not have a clue about the actions of
General Growth, nor will they tend to care if they don't live here,
making an effective boycott impossible.
Closing Harvard and Orange streets is absolutely necessary to the
success of the Americana at Brand. While closing streets will always
produce an increase in traffic to surrounding venues until people's
driving patterns adjust, we must ensure that the Americana at Brand
is a truly pedestrian-friendly haven. Allowing traffic to funnel
through the middle of it will not only increase noise within the
development, but it will also encourage drivers to use these streets
to cruise through to have a look rather than parking and walking in.
The result will only be increased traffic backed up onto Brand and
Central, then Colorado and Broadway.
While I was initially opposed to Rite Aid and Target being
featured as retail tenants, I think that it is imperative that Caruso
obtain that right mix of retail that will allow the Americana to be a
useful pedestrian destination for the residents of the apartments and
condos within the Americana, and for other nearby residents as well.
The addition of an upscale supermarket might also be a good idea.
This will allow people to have the option of walking to their errand
destinations rather than getting in their cars and driving there. If
the Americana encourages more people to walk, then we can partially
offset the increased traffic congestion that might develop from
street closures. If the Americana houses only upscale boutiques and
restaurants, we may lose some of this benefit. Maybe the city of
Glendale could also partner with Caruso to extend the trolley line up
Brand Boulevard, also including a stop or two inside of the Galleria,
providing synergy and unity among the three major components of our
Outdoor retail and residential developments are popping up all
over the country. Unfortunately, General Growth has invested heavily
in a dying breed -- the enclosed shopping mall. They can attempt to
build all the fortresses they want to around their malls and utilize
tactics to stall the progress of new developments, but they cannot
try to change what people want. City Place, a new outdoor
pedestrian-friendly development in Palm Beach, Fla., draws 7 million
visitors a year right next to the city's downtown. Even the owners of
one of the biggest enclosed malls in the country, Del Amo Fashion
Center in Torrance, are considering demolishing one portion of the
mall to include an outdoor component.
If General Growth thinks having a general election to let all
residents of Glendale vote on the Americana at Brand is going to
change the tide in their favor, all I can say is they have a big
lesson to learn. I am confident that the majority of those
individuals who care about this city and have been actively involved
in this process will come out to vote overwhelmingly in favor of Rick
Caruso and the Americana at Brand. I might even smell a landslide!
J. SCOTT LABISSONIERE