Downtown ambassadors keep watch in Glendale

Sporting blue shirts, khaki pants and caps, a group of so-called ambassadors are a constant presence in Glendale's downtown district, cleaning the streets, giving directions and generally being helpful.

As the program nears its first anniversary, local businesses say they are pleased with the program, which provides sanitation and safety services above and beyond what the city is able to provide.

The Downtown Glendale Assn., funded by businesses in and around Brand Boulevard, contracted with Block by Block for the services in February. The Louisville, Ky.-based company, in turn, hired people like Miguel Reza, who keeps track of what is going on from Colorado Street to the Ventura (134) Freeway and everything in between.

Reza said that at least three ambassadors are on duty daily from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. A night crew comes in at 10 p.m. to power wash the sidewalks.

"People like to feel safe. They feel comfortable around us," he said. "We are there keeping an eye on things."

Nestled between Lola's Peruvian restaurant and the Good Earth on Brand Boulevard, Hailey Trivoli's small lingerie shop, Laura's Corsets, has been in business for 27 years. Trivoli said she is very pleased with the ambassador program.

"Years ago, the [Downtown Glendale Assn ] gave us [local shop owners] brooms so we could sweep in front of our stores," she said. "Now we get here in the morning and just unlock the door."

Trivoli said that all the ambassadors are friendly and pleasant, but her favorite is Peggy DeVay.

"Her smile lights up my day," she said.

DeVay lives in Pacoima, but spends her days in Glendale.

"Some vendors come out of their shops to greet me when they hear my car pull up in the morning," said DeVay. "Life is about connecting with people."

Helen McDonagh owns Massage Envy, a storefront a little further up on Brand near Lexington Drive. She also sits on the association's board. McDonagh said many, if not all, of the local business owners are happy with the ambassadors program.

"They are always present on Brand, cleaning, sweeping and answering questions," she said. "Visitors can feel safer."

McDonagh said she can't speak to any direct impact of the program on businesses' bottom lines, but said the ambassadors are a mark of Glendale's overall progress.

According to McDonagh, with the opening of the new Bloomingdale's, a recently revitalized Nordstrom, and several long-vacant storefronts starting to fill, Glendale is becoming a more viable destination for shoppers and visitors.

Elissa Glickman, chief executive of Glendale Arts which includes the Alex Theater, is impressed with the ambassador program.

"They are doing an absolutely incredible job. Besides general cleaning, they police the area and catch things like cracked tiles. It's made a huge difference," Glickman said. "With all of the recent budget cuts, the program picks up where the city has to leave off."

Sal Polcino is a freelance writer.

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