Intersections: Putting its best façade forward

It's been almost a year since Borders began to shutter its doors across the country, leaving behind in one instance the skeleton of a massive building on the corner of Brand Boulevard and Broadway.

These days, the rounded, glass-paneled façade shooting out proudly from the concrete at the busy intersection looks dismally sad, especially for bibliophiles like me. Empty shelves are all that remain, with a lonely “Periodicals” sign hanging from the ceiling.

But with Bloomingdale's set to occupy the Mervyns space across the street from it by 2013, the Borders building you've grown to either love or hate might not be empty for too long, according to the firm handling its leasing.

The building has some potential tenants who are interested in taking over, although the search is going to take some time, said Bill Bauman of Studley, LLC. Through its website, the firm is advertising the space as an “outstanding, high-identity building at one of the region's most dominant retail intersections” and touts it as being close to a number of other retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Pacific Theatres and Barney's New York, all located in the Americana at Brand.

Though it's unclear who will call the iconic space home, Bauman said the intent is to try and keep the building in the same architectural style it's currently in.

Eric Olson, vice president of the Downtown Glendale Merchant's Assn. said he feels confident that someone will be found to fill the former home of Borders, but acknowledged that its layout poses a challenge.

“That is a difficult retail space, if you're familiar with it,” said Olson. “It's kind of unique in the way it's laid out; something a little less fashionable might be easier to carve up.”

But is the design its biggest downfall or its greatest asset?

It's one that has been a recognizable, and at times comforting, part of my memory growing up in and around the city. It was an unmistakable meeting place, where I spent much time browsing books and the work of local artists that were hung up on that staircase to the second floor.

But my feelings about its distinct design always remained lukewarm, and never really flung one way or the other. To me, it was just — there, and its contents were more important than the way it looked.

Still, in a city as uniform and tidy as Glendale, it is an eclectic standout piece of architecture that has the potential to ruffle design feathers. And even in its bare state, it continues to generate discussion, which is never a bad thing.

Glendale blogger and animator Scott Lowe — of — who has worked at Renegade Animation in downtown Glendale for nearly eight years, likes the glass building, at least more than those, ahem, bothersome and infantile green frogs that we would like to see hop on out of the Marketplace.

“I loved having a bookstore and cafe there,” he said. “There aren't any other large big box stores that are as interesting as a bookstore, where you want to actually spend time and browse.”

For others, it's a concept that has run its course.

“It was at the time a 'new and contemporary' design for that area. However, as better stores and buildings are being built in the area, it has definitely become outdated,” said Anet Minassian, an interior designer who works at an architectural firm.

Raud Alamin, a Bay Area investor who owns the building, wasn't available for comment, nor was a representative of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency. But what do you think? Should the building with a literary legacy keep its façade, or not?

LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic.

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