Fast food on the radar near Bob Hope Airport

Crosstown travelers and airline passengers may have noticed a colorful addition to Hollywood Way in recent months.

On a parcel adjacent to the Bob Hope Airport, a newly developed cluster of fast-food restaurants — Panda Express, McDonald’s and Del Taco — is seeing a steady influx of customer activity, with a fourth restaurant, a Denny’s, scheduled to open in about a month, said Ben Reiling, chairman and chief executive officer of Zelman Development Co., which constructed the project.

And the consensus so far is that businesses that set up shop on the property are meeting with good results, he added.

“So far from what I’ve heard from the Panda folks . . .  they’re very happy with their opening there,” he said.

“I think it’s doing pretty well.”

The development is filling a food service gap in the area, which not only generates traffic to and from the airport, but has several office buildings and a hotel-convention center nearby, Reiling said.

“Frankly, in the immediate area, with the office building across the street and the hotel, there’s really only the Daily Grill over there,” he said.

“And that hits a price point that a lot of people aren’t really excited about for lunch.”

But the project has stirred the concerns of many airport watchers, some who mistake the new development as airport expansion, said Charlie Lombardo, commissioner of the Burbank-Glendale Pasadena Airport Authority.

“I get asked by many people, ‘Why did we build that?’” Lombardo said.

“And I keep on telling them we had nothing to do it with it. That was an outside developer and the city chose in its wisdom to approve it.”

Airport officials tried to acquire the 4-acre property along with a 26-acre parcel that was purchased in June 2005, airport spokesman Victor Gill said.

That parcel now contains the airport’s new valet center, which includes a sheltered pick-up and drop-off area, as well as parking spaces for both valet and self-park vehicles, he said.

But the Zelman company, which also developed the Empire Center and other properties in Burbank, held on to the 4 acres along Hollywood Way, where the new development is taking shape.

Developers have completed separate building on the parcel, which is going through the leasing process for other food-related sit-down restaurants, Reiling said.

“The tenants that we’ve talked to about it clearly are expecting as the airport continues to pick up steam — and with really not much in the way of food services available there — I think they feel that they were very much looking for or anticipating [customer] traffic from the airport,” he said.

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