Glendale Galleria to revamp its drab all-brick skin

The Glendale Galleria — a retail powerhouse whose 1970s-era all-brick façade has been criticized as being overtly drab — plans to undergo a major overhaul in the next two years, including a revamped entrance plaza featuring 11-foot-high letters jutting out of a pool.

The project, approved by the City Council on Tuesday, will ditch the mega-mall’s windowless, brick exterior, which was typical of shopping malls built in the 1970s, but has become increasingly dated with the rise of the glitzy Americana at Brand and a more mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented downtown.

Large sections of the Galleria’s exterior walls will be covered with white marble, black granite and metal panels to give it a more contemporary appearance, according to plans submitted to Glendale City Hall.

“I think it’s overdue,” said Councilman Ara Najarian. “I would have liked to have brought this up to speed at about the time the Americana was opening up. I understand there were some issues between the two neighbors. Now they’re working together.”

Americana developer Rick Caruso — and even executives for the Galleria’s parent company, General Growth Properties — have pointed out the Galleria’s dimming luster over the years. But financial problems at General Growth have slowed upgrades.

Perhaps the most dramatic feature will be an expansion of the mall’s plaza leading to its main entrance on Central Avenue, across from the Americana at Brand. The crosswalk connecting the two retail behemoths is the busiest in Glendale, city officials said.

Water will play a large role in the new plaza, with two fountains and a reflecting pool welcoming shoppers. Letters 11 feet high will jut out of the pool to spell “Galleria,” while the word “Glendale” will be spelled with 3.5-foot-tall letters on top of the pool wall.

Outdoor seating and upgraded landscaping also are part of the plans.

The bridge over Central Avenue, which connects the original Galleria with its companion structure, called Galleria II, will be sheathed in a stained metal-panel finish, according to the plans.

Improving access to Galleria II was a large component in the design plans, said D. Jamie Rusin, a principal with Berkeley-based firm Architecture and Urban Design.

Glass-enclosed escalators will be constructed on the side of the parking structure that runs along the east side of Central Avenue, which will lead to the second level of Galleria II.

Also, signage with improved visibility will be placed at the street-level entrance on Broadway, which the mall shares with an office tower.

The project is scheduled to be completed by the time Bloomingdale’s opens in the former Mervyn’s site at Broadway and Brand Boulevard in fall 2013.

Under the plans approved by the council on Tuesday, the Galleria also can move forward with billboard-style advertising signs.

A city ordinance passed in March 2010 allows large advertising signs in special zones around the Galleria and Americana at Brand. Before it can put up the signs, the Galleria must enter into a revenue-sharing agreement with the city, said Philip Lanzafame, chief assistant director of community development.

He said the revenue-sharing ratio has not been formulated yet.

The signs will be similar to the ones erected along Colorado Boulevard at the Americana at Brand, Lanzafame said.

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