City welcomes nightclubs and bright architectural lighting

The Mann Theatres could be reborn as nightclubs as the city ramps up plans for a downtown arts and entertainment district.

The 10 Mann screens in the Glendale Exchange will go dark when the company’s lease ends June 30, said Chief Executive Peter Dobson, opening up nearly 54,000 square feet of vacant space.

Greg Astorian, a commercial real estate broker who handles the Exchange property, said he is negotiating with the owners of two nightclubs who have expressed an interest in occupying much of the space.

“That would be a great alternative use for the theaters,” Astorian said.

The planned arts and entertainment district, which covers Maryland Avenue and Brand Boulevard between the Alex Theater and the library, is dominated by the Exchange and Glendale Marketplace, two commercial centers that have failed to provide the economic spark the city expected. The Marketplace, with four Mann screens, is for sale, and commercial real estate agents say they expect the new owner to take on the task of remaking it.

Dobson said the lease for the Mann theaters in the Marketplace runs through 2018. Officials with Jones Lang LaSalle, which is marketing Glendale Marketplace, declined to comment on prospective buyers.

The City Council, acting as the Glendale Redevelopment Agency, has already voted to rewrite zoning rules to encourage entertainment venues to move in to the Exchange and Marketplace, where previous agreements barred businesses that would compete with the theaters.

The city also approved financial incentives for landlords to improve properties, created a system to fast-track business applications and passed a sign ordinance encouraging businesses to post bold neon signs that will serve as architectural features and attract visitors.

“It’s not just about bringing in businesses,” Annette Vartanian, a city economic analyst, said. “The environment we are trying to create will be a place where businesses that are arts and entertainment related can easily move in and thrive.”

The modified sign rules cover the entire downtown area.

Philip Lanzafame, the city’s chief assistant director of community development, said the idea is to use the arts as an economic driver to boost fortunes downtown.

“When the Alex Theatre has a performance, the businesses and restaurants around it have good nights,” Lanzafame said. “We want to extend that and see it spill to mid-Brand, the Americana and the area around the library.”

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