The Glendale Galleria has a new leader.
General Growth Properties Inc. last week named Chris Bilotto as the new senior general manager at the landmark shopping center with 250 specialty stores and anchors including Nordstrom, Macy's JCPenney and Target.
Bilotto previously managed General Growth's Arizona Center, a 250,000-square-foot shopping, entertainment and office complex in Phoenix.
Bilotto takes over one of the largest centers in Southern California and one that some Glendale business leaders hope will get a bit of a makeover.
Bilotto leads a staff of 14 in overseeing tenants, promotional events, security and other features of the Galleria.
"This is a phenomenal property," Bilotto said. "It is a great asset for us. A lot of first-market concepts open up at this location, and there are only a select few properties in our portfolio that get those kind of events."
Bilotto mentioned Tuesday night's party for the season premiere of the television show "Glee," which drew hundreds to the Galleria for a rooftop screening, as one example.
Bilotto declined to offer sales tax or occupancy figures, but said the center is adding new shops and amenities, including children's clothing store Crazy 8, women's store Cache and the fresh produce section at Target.
"August trends in retail sales were up half a percent (according to the Commerce Department), and the Galleria is no exception," he said.
Regarding new stores, he said, "There is a lot of activity. That outlook is going to continue in 2010 and 2011."
Glendale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Judee Kendall welcomed Bilotto and said she hopes the Galleria plays a larger role in civic life.
"Since it has been here, the Galleria has been a tremendous asset to this city," she said. "With the new manager on site, the connection to the community will be stronger."
Helen McDonagh, president of the Glendale Downtown Merchants Assn., said the Galleria is a key draw for visitors. She said she hoped Bilotto would work quickly to find an anchor tenant or another creative solution to occupy the former Mervyns location at Broadway and Brand Boulevard, and upgrade Galleria lighting, landscaping and signage.
"The Mervyns empty space creates a major void on Brand Boulevard," McDonagh said. "When you are walking, that store being empty breaks the continuity of the retail experience."
Bilotto declined to address specific concerns, but said he is assessing the Galleria's needs.
"Getting acclimated and ingrained in the community is my first priority," he said.