Patience is a necessary character trait for the urban designer, as it can take many years, if not decades, for your plans to be realized. 2015, however, was the year in which many elements of the plan we proposed for downtown Glendale nine years ago started to come together. It has been a year of many accomplishments and much change, both personally and professionally. Expecting even more in 2016, it seems worthwhile to look back on some of the significant moments in 2015, and acknowledge that, yes, a lot was achieved in the past twelve months. Plans do come to fruition.
In January, NBC4 stopped by our office to talk with me about Space134 for a news segment they ran in February about “Freeway Cap Parks.” This interview kicked off a year of outreach events and promotion for the Space134 project, which will be presented to Glendale Council in January 2016.
The Glendale Arts Colony started construction in February. This project is the result of an RFP for development issued jointly by the City of Glendale and the Glendale YMCA for a prominent site in downtown Glendale adjacent to and owed by the YMCA. The program, affordable housing for artists, aligns with the goals of the Maryland Art & Entertainment District one block away, while the design, by Studio One Eleven, resolves a number of site constraints and brings coherency to the Y campus.
The end of April saw the Glendale Urban Design and Outreach team focused on planning “Earth Day at the 134”, the City’s Earth Day event. Staged as a street festival adjacent to the 134 Freeway, this event both served as a “pop-up urbanism” showcase for the Space134 project, but also demonstrated the Outreach team’s conviction that offering a fun, inventive event would ultimately result in more community engagement with planning projects being promoted by the City than the traditional town hall or commission meeting.
In May, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency began one of its final actions, breaking ground on yet another project in the Maryland Art & Entertainment District. Laemmle Cinema Lofts will be a small mixed-use building anchoring the north end of Maryland Avenue, and feature 42 condos with Panda Inn Restaurant and a Laemmle Cinema on the ground floor.
June was an especially exciting month. We received an “Implementation Award” for the Downtown Specific Plan & Mobility Study from the APA Los Angeles chapter at their annual award ceremony held at the Alex Theatre in Downtown Glendale. The award recognizes the significant work Glendale staff across multiple departments (as well as many private development partners) have invested to bring forth the renaissance of Downtown Glendale over the past ten years.
The renovation of the Glendale Central Library started in July. Planned for many years, and almost delayed indefinitely by the death of Redevelopment, the Central Library renovation is a keystone element to both the Maryland Art & Entertainment District and Central Park Master Plan. Based on designs by Gruen Associates, the renovation will introduce a new north entrance to the Library in the form of a grand staircase and plaza that looks north up Maryland Avenue towards Laemmle Cinema Lofts.
In September, Glendale City Council approved contracts to execute a multi-year project to develop a much need Citywide Pedestrian Plan and associated Pedestrian Safety Campaign. Work on these two projects will start in early 2016.
Also in September, but outside of Glendale and at the end of the Metro Gold Line, Metro opened Azusa Station. Over ten years ago, when I was a young urban designer with Moule & Polyzoides, I drafted the first station area plan for downtown Azusa, anticipating the eventual arrival of the Gold Line.
Following the award we received in June from the local Los Angeles Chapter of the APA, in October Glendale staff traveled to Oakland for the State APA conference to accept the same award the State Chapter. Receiving recognition at the State level for implementing the Glendale Downtown Specific Plan brings the Plan full circle, as it won a statewide policy award in 2007 just after the plan was adopted.
As if to acknowledge that point, in November three of the new buildings enabled by the Downtown Specific Plan held ribbon cutting ceremonies: the two sister buildings known as The Brand Apartments and Modera Glendale. Together, these buildings bring over 600 urban style apartments to central Glendale.
Rounding out the year, the Museum of Neon Art and the adjacent MONA Paseo finally opened in December. Also one of the final acts of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency, the completion of this project represents the first phase of the Central Park Master Plan. It January it will be joined by the renovation of the adjacent Masonic Temple, a historic structure that has sat vacant for decades.