Lofts will get their own parking

The Redevelopment Agency voted this week to pay $1.1 million to help build a 46-space parking garage beneath the proposed five-screen Laemmle Theatre and live-work lofts at Maryland and Wilson avenues.

The agreement raises the city’s contribution for the project to roughly $3 million in waived fees, demolition costs and the city’s original $350,000-purchase of the property. The site, which the city will turn over to the developers, currently houses the Panda Inn restaurant and a surface parking lot.

Members of the City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, said the theater, which will specialize in independent and foreign films, will be a key addition to Glendale’s cultural offerings and will provide a boost to nearby businesses.

In March, the agency voted 3-2 to go ahead with an agreement that only required the developers — Laemmle Theatres and Mapleton RDS Real Estate Group — to lease 70 city-owned parking spaces in the Glendale Exchange parking structure on Maryland.

But in April, John Drayman, a champion of the theater project, was voted off the City Council and replaced by Raffi Manoukian, who, like Councilman Ara Najarian, was concerned about the lack of parking for 42 live-work lofts, 600 theater seats and the Panda Inn.

On Tuesday, the developers said they would build parking for loft residents, but wanted the Redevelopment Agency to cover half the estimated $2.2-million price tag.

“We believe this improves the project, but we need help to bridge this additional expense,” Jay Reisbaum, senior vice president of Laemmle Theatres, told agency members.

The 46 spaces will be designated for loft residents only. Theater patrons will be expected to park in existing nearby public parking. The 70-space lease deal at the Exchange now is dead.

Rodney Khan, a consultant for the developers, said they would purchase an electric car for loft occupants to use and place a charging station in the garage, among other transit-related amenities.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the project, with Dave Weaver opposed.

Najarian said he believed the developers came around only when they realized that with Drayman out and Manoukian in, they no longer had the votes for approval.

“This is a lesson where we as a council shouldn’t just say, ‘Well, that’s it,’” Najarian said. “Even when the developer says ‘That’s it,’ it’s never really is.”

The parking garage will add four months to the project timeline, according to a spokesman, bringing construction time to 18 months and the price tag to $10.6 million.

Councilman Frank Quintero said the theater will revitalize mid-Brand businesses.

“Look at those restaurants, look at the retail, and you just don’t see much activity,” Quintero said. “This project will absolutely help those merchants…more than advertising, more than branding, more than all of the other things we are trying to do to help that business community.”

Philip Lanzafame, the city’s chief assistant director for community development, said the garage also would benefit the Alex Theatre. Operators of the historic venue are preparing to build backstage additions for receptions and performers and may save money if excavation is done for the Laemmle, he said.

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