By JESSICA DREBEN
The city of Burbank is seeking to develop a new retail and entertainment district in an eight-block area to the southeast of its Media City Center.
"We have more and more businesses coming to our city," said Mayor Bob Kramer. "They want a variety of places to shop and eat. It is important that cities keep up to date to keep people attracted to the city."
At least four new developments are planned for the area, which city officials are calling the Burbank Downtown Village. The largest development would be a new 22-screen American Multi-Cinemas theater, which would replace an existing 14-screen AMC cinema nearby.
"It is the next generation for Burbank," said Robert M. Tague, the city's community development director. "There is a pent-up demand to come to Burbank, and there is simply no good space to offer them."
Tague said stores like The Gap, Crate and Barrel, Linens & Things, Bed, Bath & Beyond; and restaurants like Wolfgang Puck's Cafe, Border Grill and the Cheesecake Factory have all expressed a desire to expand to Burbank and are talking to the developers about the space under construction.
The Burbank Downtown Village is bounded by Magnolia Boulevard, Third Street, First Street, and Angeleno Avenue. The area includes City Hall.
Projects slated for the area include:
? A new 22-plex AMC Theatre with 150,000 square feet of retail space. The approximately $50 million project would be developed by Los Angeles-based Centertainment Inc., a subsidiary of AMC, at Magnolia and Palm Avenue, a block north of AMC's 14-screen theater at First and Palm. Part of the site is now occupied by the Elks Lodge, which would be demolished.
The developers are awaiting final approval from the city to begin building.
"We think our project will anchor that part of downtown and we would like to rebuild our facility to remain competitive," said Allen Benjamin, senior vice president of Centertainment.
? A $40 million office-retail project at Third and Olive Avenue, on the site of the city's former police station headquarters. The development by Beverly Hills-based Regent Properties is being called Metropolitan Plaza and would include more than 200,000 square feet of office and retail space. The company plans to break ground in 1999 and complete the work by the end of that year. Laemmle Theatres has expressed interest in a five-screen theater in the space, city officials said.
? A retail development called Media Village, which is now under construction at Magnolia and Third. Glendale-based Gangi Builders has not signed any tenants but has been in talks with retailers, including the Yankee Doodles restaurant and Old Navy.
"We believe Burbank is an up-and-coming area, and it will continue to expand and prosper," said Frank Gangi, president of Gangi Builders. "It seems that in Burbank there is more opportunity to do something and do it in a timely manner. The city really understands business and what it takes to make something."
? An 8,000-square-foot Gordon Biersch restaurant and brewery, located at San Fernando Boulevard and Angeleno Avenue. The project has been approved by the city, but developers are still awaiting an alcohol license.
All four planned developments will be connected through a pedestrian walkway system to San Fernando Boulevard and The Media City Center. The work would include landscaping as well as upgrading streets and sidewalks, and parts of Palm Street would be closed to automotive traffic. Pedestrians would be able to walk from public parking areas to shops and restaurants.
Along the walkways, city officials envision an animated corridor with street entertainment and pushcart retailers. City officials said the goal is to create something similar to Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade.
They acknowledge that Burbank's Media City Center, which opened in 1991, has had mixed success. The centerpiece of the project is an indoor mall anchored by Macy's, Mervyns, and Sears department stores.
"The mall has been less successful than expected," said Burbank Assistant City Manager Stephen Helvey.
On the whole, however, he said the center has been a success because of strong sales at shops outside the mall (include big-box furniture seller Ikea) and business at adjoining theaters and restaurants.
The interest and development underway in Burbank represents a sharp turnaround for the city, which eight years ago suffered the loss of 14,000 jobs when its primary employer, Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin Corp., moved its operations to Bethesda, Md.
The city has added more than 1 million square feet of retail space in the last 11 years, and today, the office vacancy rate is near zero in the Media District, with entertainment companies vying for any available space in the city.
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