One of Glendale's most historic buildings — a place from which Charles Lindbergh flew the first Los Angeles-to-New York flight and where P-38 Lighting pilots trained for World War II dog fights — is being restored by the Walt Disney Co.
The Grand Central Air Terminal, located on Disney's Grand Central Creative Campus off of Flower Street, will be given a total makeover to restore its appearance from the 1929-1959 period while also serving as an events space and visitor center as well as housing media offices.
The terminal, completed in 1929, was part of the former Glendale Municipal Airport, the first commercial airport in the Los Angeles area. After the terminal was built, the entire airfield was called the Grand Central Air Terminal.
It was frequented by visitors such as Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, a history that Disney is aiming to preserve and illuminate in its restoration.
Disney will also demolish a nearby building, replacing it with a lawn and landscaping to create an outdoor events space and restore historic views.
Disney's rehabilitation plan was approved 5-0 by Glendale's Historic Preservation Commission late last month.
Greg Grammer, president of the Glendale Historical Society, said at the meeting that the organization has been pushing Disney to restore the building for years.
"We recognize it as one of the most significant historical resources we have here in Glendale, if not the most significant," he said. "But I am pleased to say, it has been well worth the wait."
Grammer said that after the restoration is complete, he expects the building will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Disney's agreement with the city requires that work be completed by 2015, and construction is expected to take around 18 months.
The commissioners said they hope Disney will allow more public access to the historic building, particularly the visitor center, than is currently planned – although city regulations do not allow the commission to actually require access.
A Disney representative confirmed Friday that the company will offer tours on a reservation basis when the building is not being used for conferences and meetings, but some areas will be offices off-limits to the general public.
The request for more public access was made an optional "consideration" for the project, along with a request that Disney place a period-appropriate airplane, such as a Douglas DC-3, in front of the building.
Overall, though, city officials, including planner Jay Platt, said they were enthusiastic about the restoration.
"It's a really exciting project," Platt said. "It's a site (where) everybody's been waiting to see something happen for a long time, and now something really good is going to be happening there."