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Glendale City Council shies from proposed location of Armenian American Museum

More than a year ago, council members signed an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee to let the group design a plan for the museum on the 1.17-acre parking lot next to the auditorium at Verdugo Road and Mountain Street.

More than a year ago, council members signed an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee to let the group design a plan for the museum on the 1.17-acre parking lot next to the auditorium at Verdugo Road and Mountain Street.

(Courtesy of the Armenian American Museum)

The City Council on Tuesday tried to nudge organizers of the proposed Armenian American Museum to relocate their project from next to the Glendale Civic Auditorium to Central Park in downtown.

More than a year ago, council members signed an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee to let the group design a plan for the museum on the 1.17-acre parking lot next to the auditorium at Verdugo Road and Mountain Street.

At the time, council members spoke enthusiastically about the project and its location. However, soon after, there was an outpouring of concerns from nearby residents about traffic.

“None of us on the council want to create a situation where we create a divide in the community from one community against another group. That’s not what we’re here for,” said Mayor Ara Najarian. “The idea of a museum is an excellent one … We’re all trying to find the best spot for it.”

City Manager Scott Ochoa suggested the Central Park location — near the corner of Colorado Street and Louise Street — as a potentially suitable site for the museum.

Councilman Zareh Sinanyan said the open space might be better suited for a museum, especially because of the downtown foot traffic.

“I think in the long term, it could be better for the committee because that’s our art and entertainment district. That’s where we’re trying to have a concentration of people,” he said.

While Sinanyan has also been a strong supporter of more parks in the downtown and south Glendale areas, he said he thinks the loss of Central Park could be made up down the road. Some projects he had in mind included closing Maryland Avenue between Harvard Street and Wilson Avenue to traffic and opening it up as a pedestrian promenade.

The committee has already presented a conceptual design for the 30,000-square-foot museum, which is slated to house permanent and traveling art exhibits as well as a research facility.

The Central Park site is just more than 3 acres. Ochoa called it a passive park, meaning it’s used more for activities such as picnics rather than athletics.

Council members directed Ochoa to meet with committee members and discuss the Central Park option, and possibly return with a new exclusive lease agreement.

But for now, the museum’s representatives are expressing disappointment.

“While there was a disagreement on the location, it was clear that everyone who spoke wanted to see the Armenian American Museum in Glendale,” said Tigranna Zakaryan, the museum’s community outreach director. “Although we see a number of difficulties in placing the museum at Central Park, we will take the time to properly evaluate this site before making a decision.”

When it comes to the lot next to the Civic Auditorium, the committee still needed to conduct a number of environmental reviews.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman said she’d rather discuss changing the project site now before hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on those reviews followed by a rejection by the council of the final proposal.

More than a dozen residents living near the parking lot addressed the council and supported a location change.

“This dialogue has been very, very encouraging … It’s inspiring, and we will rally behind it 100%,” said resident Kim Murphy.

Others, such as local teacher Taline Arsenian, said they felt as though changing the museum site will be a lost educational opportunity because Glendale Community College is just across the street.

She added that traffic concerns were overblown because the college has thousands of students, while the museum would bring in significantly fewer visitors, comparatively.

“A couple hundred museum-goers is not going to impact traffic grossly,” Arsenian said. “Traffic can be redirected; bus drop-offs can be staggered.”

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Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Twitter: @ArinMikailian


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