Future set for vacant lot

A parcel in the heart of Glendale that has been vacant for more than 20 years, except for occasional filming activity, may soon get a permanent resident.

The City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved a six-story building with more than 200 apartments, retail space and a restaurant for the southwest corner of Brand Boulevard and Wilson Avenue.

The Holland Partner Group plans to construct the building that will be divided architecturally into three sections — 10,000 square feet of retail space that will include a restaurant on the ground floor, 238 apartments in the middle and penthouses perched atop the building.

Councilman Dave Weaver, who with Councilman Ara Najarian voted against the project, said the mixed-use complex did not comply with what officials had discussed for the 1.377-acre site while drafting the Downtown Specific Plan in 2006. At the time, Weaver said, city officials said they wanted a high-rise hotel.

“My viewpoint has been that residential does not belong on Brand,” he said. “[In] talking with business people in this city, they’ve continually told me (that) what this city needs is a first-class hotel. We don’t have one.”

Three council members approved the building, but two of them requested the architect look more closely at accent colors to make the building stand out. The architectural company had muted the accent colors from its original proposal, but Councilwoman Laura Friedman said a brighter color might make the highly visible corner more dynamic.

Referring to a branding study the city had conducted, many respondents thought Glendale was “boring” and “vanilla,” Friedman said.

“When I’m looking at your current proposal — love the building, love the massing — but to me the color, which is various shades of beige, fits right into that impression, which, by the way, is a negative impression,” she said.

After the meeting, Councilman Ara Najarian said he agreed with Weaver that the best use for the property would be a hotel, but he voted against the project because, while he liked the final version of the building plans, he was concerned about any changes made to it, including different or additional color accents.

The building is designed in an “S” shape with two courtyards — one with a pool and recreation area — and a pocket park on the corner of Wilson and Orange Avenue.

The building will have 398 parking spaces in two subterranean levels.

The new project will be next to the City Center 1 complex, which features an open-air escalator that some city officials say looks out of place, said the project’s architect.

“Some people have had opinions and consternation, quite frankly, about the outside escalator and how it might be incorporated into the future,” said architect Michael LaBarre with Carrier Johnson + Culture during the meeting. “We think it is something to be embraced and have it incorporated into the composition of our overall design, which we feel is very appealing and positive.”

He said the new project will complete the circular pattern of the existing Center City 1 and create a plaza area around the escalator.

No timeline for the project was discussed at the meeting.

Mayor Frank Quintero said what’s most important is that the vacant lot be filled after more than two decades.

“Yes, it has been 20-plus years, only it seems like 40 years that that lot has been empty right in the middle of downtown,” he said. “I think this is the best thing that we’ve seen in a long, long time. There have been a lot of reiterations and possibilities, five-star hotels and everything else, none of which came to fruition.... This is a solid proposal.”

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