Americana's sales strong

CITY HALL — Strong second-quarter earnings for the Americana at Brand got a cautious, if not strong, endorsement from the Redevelopment Agency on Wednesday.

It was the first public reckoning of a project that only a few years ago sparked citywide upheaval, nasty legal battles and several voter referendums.

The Redevelopment Agency report, released Thursday, put the Americana on track to exceed sales and property tax forecasts by 11% and 42%, respectively — a figure that surprised some city officials, given the slow economy.

But for Americana’s stalwart supporters at City Hall, the report only buttressed the pitches made in the early part of this decade when the proposal from Caruso Affiliated first hit Glendale.

“I always thought it’d be a winner. I still think it will. To me, it’s a big winner,” said Councilman Dave Weaver, who got flak from Americana opponents for accepting thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from developer Rick Caruso during the protracted battle to see the proposal through City Hall.

In the years that followed the City Council’s decision in 2001 to select Caruso’s initial design, the city became embroiled in a fight over whether the 900,000-square-foot mixed-use behemoth would do more harm than good to central Glendale and smaller businesses in other parts of the city.

While the Americana has been open for about six months, the Redevelopment Agency report was only based on the second-quarter reporting period between April and June, and even then, the open-air development only opened for business in May.

City officials cautioned that they would need at least two years of firm data before any trends could be identified, but the report indicated that Americana’s ability to generate foot traffic and outside investment had lessened the blow of the major economic downturn.

Sales tax revenue at the Americana for the May to June period was $252,667. A “straight projection” of that figure for the year would beat the 2004 forecast by $150,000.

The report also found that the increased value of the Americana could mean at least a $2.05 million annual tax infusion for city coffers, 42% more than expected.

And, in addition to the myriad of new businesses and developments attracted to the area since the Americana’s opening, vacancy rates in the downtown area have fallen by about half, according to the report.

“We can’t say it’s directly attributable to the Americana, but it’s a piece of the information that we can give you,” Development Services Director Philip Lanzafame said.

At the same time, second-quarter sales for the Montrose Shopping Park on Honolulu Avenue were down 11.7% over the same period last year, a leaching effect that was predicted before the Americana was even built.

Mayor John Drayman, who is past president of the Montrose Shopping Park Merchants Assn., said he would anxiously await third-quarter results to track whether another prediction would come true — a leveling-off and rebound of sales as the Americana stabilized.

But at a time when the formerly maligned mixed-use development appears to have shielded Glendale from the same steep declines seen on the state and county levels, city officials were clearly pleased to have a promise of continued success with the strong early showing.

“It really is something that we’re fortunate to have in Glendale,” Councilman and Redevelopment Agency Chairman Ara Najarian said.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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