Americana's Caruso aims for growth

Americana at Brand developer Rick Caruso wants to expand his 15.5-acre retail center and is gunning for two adjacent properties to do it.

Caruso is angling to acquire the Golden Key Hotel at 123 W. Colorado Blvd. and an adjacent building. He would replace them with 60,000 to 140,000 square feet of new retail space, landscaping and a plaza.

"It's an important last piece of the puzzle because it really rounds out that corner there," Caruso said. "We have $400 million invested in the Americana. We would like to invest more in Glendale, and I would like to have those properties that are not now part of the Americana become a part of it."

Caruso said the improvements would remove blight, raise $80 million in annual sales revenue and create jobs. And the Americana would pay all of the estimated $50 million for the changes.

In a letter to the Redevelopment Agency, Caruso pointed out that "while other projects in Glendale are stalled or have simply died, we are prepared to invest more, and do it now."

Caruso's efforts to buy the properties have so far failed, according to city documents.

But the city may be able to use the power of eminent domain to acquire the properties, as it did with nearby buildings in paving the way for the Americana several years ago.

Ray Patel, owner of the 55-room Golden Key, said the plan is "another distraction" in a history of tense relations with the city and Caruso Affiliated.

Patel has sued the city to recover revenues he said he lost during the three-year construction of the Americana. He also has sued Caruso Affiliated, alleging the company broke an agreement regarding deliveries and garbage pickups near the hotel. Both of those claims are pending in court, he said.

"The hotel was so successful before the construction," Patel said. "We weathered that storm, then after the Americana opened in May 2008, we tried to work around road blockages and deliveries, and now they drop a third item. It's just another hurdle we've got to deal with."

Henry David, the owner of the adjacent former recording studio at 230 S. Orange St., said he would be willing to sell the property, adding that he believes it is worth the $5 million the Redevelopment Agency spent to acquire the former Armenian Society of Los Angeles building next door. That building was razed for the Americana.

"If (Caruso) wants to buy it, and the price is a reasonable price, then I don't have any problem," David said. "I just don't want it to be stolen, that's all."

Caruso declined to discuss pricing, but said he wants to sit down with the owners and work out a deal.

"We're not looking to get a deep discount or take advantage of anyone," he said.

In response to Caruso's request, the Redevelopment Agency could seek detailed redevelopment proposals from the three property owners, ask for input from other potential developers or decline to pursue any changes.

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