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State may pitch in for Armenian American Museum construction in downtown Glendale

Concept art for Armenian American Museum

The Armenian American Museum’s representatives and the city were initially looking to build on a 1.7-acre lot across from Glendale Community College, but an outpouring of concerns about traffic from nearby residents compelled City Council members to recommend changing the location.

(Courtesy of the Armenian American Museum)

The Armenian American Museum may receive $5 million in state funds to help pay for its construction on a potential downtown Glendale site.

State Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian appropriated state general fund money for the project in the upcoming budget, which still needs legislative approval and Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature by mid-June.

The museum’s foundation in 2014 first pitched its proposal for a 30,000-square-foot museum to house artworks by Armenians and artists from other cultures.

Nazarian said he’s followed the project since then and understands its potential.

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“Something like this museum can play a common denominator for furthering intercultural relations,” he said in a phone interview.

The museum’s representatives and the city were initially looking to build on a 1.7-acre lot across from Glendale Community College, but an outpouring of concerns about traffic from nearby residents compelled City Council members to recommend changing the location.

In February, the council directed members of the museum foundation to examine building the project at Central Park in downtown Glendale, adjacent to the Glendale Central Library, the Adult Recreation Center and the newly opened Museum of Neon Art.

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Council members felt a downtown location would be better suited for foot traffic. Nazarian said it was the decision to relocate that was the final push for him to get involved.

“I think the fact it’s in downtown, it’s a much better location for integrating the museum into the fabric of Glendale itself as well as for tourism or closer access to long-existing transportation lines,” he said.

Nazarian said he’s been in talks with museum officials, who requested the $5 million. That money will be earmarked for construction only; ongoing operational costs would have to be covered through fundraising and donations, he added.

To that end, Berdj Karapetian, chairman of the museum’s development committee, expressed his gratitude toward the assemblyman and other state legislators.

“We look forward to working with leaders from the California State Legislature to help make our vision for the Armenian American Museum a reality in the city of Glendale and build an educational center that will serve local residents and visitors from throughout our great state of California,” Karapetian said in an email.

Despite the state funding, construction costs will likely surpass $5 million, said Tigranna Zakaryan, spokeswoman for the museum.

And Nazarian’s appropriation likely won’t speed up the construction process either, she added.

Museum officials still need to secure a ground lease for Central Park — something Zakaryan hopes can be achieved by this fall. There also needs to be an environmental review and economic feasibility study conducted, she said.

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Once open, the museum will house permanent and traveling exhibitions.

Recently, museum officials helped with an exhibit titled “Armenia: An Open Wound” at the Brand Library & Art Center that will be on display through June 11.

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Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Twitter: @ArinMikailian

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