Americana mall taxes slightly under estimates

Two years after changing the face of Brand Boulevard, the Americana at Brand has not paid off in sales tax revenue the way city officials hoped, but has boosted Glendale’s fortunes in other ways.

At $1.16 million, sales tax revenue from the mixed-use shopping center was 15% less than expected in 2009, according to a Glendale Redevelopment Agency report.

But the property tax assessment for the center — which includes 75 shops, a multiplex theater, apartments and condominiums — should reach $3.64 million for the current fiscal year, according to the report, or more than double the $1.44 million take estimated in 2003.

At a Redevelopment Agency meeting on Tuesday, Philip Lanzafame, director of the Community Redevelopment & Housing Department, emphasized that the Americana has performed well. It has generated 1,500 jobs, created open space with a two-acre plaza, provided a southern anchor for downtown Glendale and replaced the blighted area that once occupied Brand Boulevard near Colorado Street.

He also said the 15.5-acre, 900,000-square-foot center attracts 68% of its visitors from outside the city, enhancing Glendale’s reputation as a regional shopping hub.

“This is not about the financial return,” Lanzafame said. “Our main purpose is the elimination of blight.”

Councilman Dave Weaver said the figures were a strong rebuttal to those who criticized city officials for approving the project, which was highly controversial when proposed. It took several ballot measures to get approved, only to face a protracted lawsuit from the owners of the neighboring Glendale Galleria.

“Too bad the gadflies aren’t here today,” Weaver said. “They continue to misunderstand why we approved the Americana.”

Still, sales at the Americana have not grown enough for the city to cash in on a revenue-sharing deal struck when the center was approved. The Redevelopment Agency is eligible to receive half of the center’s sales proceeds above an 11.75% return on its investment in retail and 8.25% return on residences. The Americana has not reached those benchmarks, hampered by the economic downturn that began months after the center opened in May 2007.

Last month, Jennifer Gordon, vice president of public relations for the Americana, said after a struggle, 68% to 70% of the condos have been sold. About 96% of retail space is also occupied, she said.

The city, which spent $77 million in land acquisition and other costs to support the Americana’s development, reported the center’s owner, Caruso Affiliated, spends $643,500 each year on landscaping and maintaining public open space, including the large fountain and lake in the center of the complex.

The city originally estimated the annual cost of maintaining the park at roughly $240,000.

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