Downtown luxury high-rise plan becomes lower

A 24-story luxury condominium, once touted as a symbol of a taller, more glamorous downtown skyline, has been redesigned as a six-story apartment complex under the pressures of tight financial markets.

“My dream had become a nightmare for this site,” said Marc Nathanson — chairman of Mapleton Investments, which with Urban Partners LLC is developing the project — in describing the economic collapse after the original high rise was approved in 2008.

Verdugo Gardens was to feature skygardens built into the facade on the 18th floor, each with a different theme. But with the economic recession making financing nearly impossible, developers had to significantly scale back the design.

On Tuesday, the City Council, acting in its dual role as Redevelopment Agency, unanimously approved the new design.

When the council approved the original design, officials described it as one of the most significant developments for the city since the Americana at Brand. The city's General Plan — a blueprint for the future — points to high rises as a way to rejuvenate downtown.

“It was just a spectacular building,” Councilman Frank Quintero said, reminiscing about the first design. “Hopefully, someday it will come back on another corner….This design, I’m just as impressed with.”

The project is on about 1.5 acres on Central Avenue between Doran Street and Sanchez Avenue near the Ventura (134) Freeway. It is to have 220 smaller rental apartments, rather than the originally proposed 287 luxury condominiums. New traffic lanes on all three streets are also planned, said Rodney Khan, a consultant for the developer.

The concept for the building began with an 18-story structure several years ago, but that increased to 24 after the developer used open space and design incentives to boost the allowable size.

The new building will still have amenities, such as a solar-heated pool and Jacuzzi, but it won't have the skygardens, the scale or the drama. The new building is valued at $29.5 million, which officials estimate will mean $2.4 million in taxes and fees for the city, according to a staff report.

Before the meeting, Khan said other developers interested in building high rises in Glendale may also be making an about-face due to the difficulty of getting construction financing. They still will be building, but people can expect smaller developments, he said.

Also on Tuesday, the City Council approved two other apartment buildings: Kenwood Gardens, a five-story building with 35 residential units on the east side of South Kenwood Street between East Broadway and East Harvard streets; and Colorado Gardens, a five-story building with 50 units on the south side of West Colorado Street between South Brand Boulevard and South Central Avenue.

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