By JENNIFER NETHERBY
The last major redevelopment site in downtown Burbank is about to be transformed, bringing to a close an area-wide effort that began nearly 20 years ago.
The dated buildings that currently stand on the 3.4-acre site will be razed over the coming months and in their place will rise Regent Properties Inc.'s new $100 million Burbank Plaza.
The project, being developed across from City Hall on Olive Street, bounded by Third Street, Angeleno Avenue and San Fernando Boulevard, is designed to include a 210,000-square-foot office building, a 68,000-square-foot retail/restaurant complex, a three- to six-screen art house theater and 300-room hotel by Marriott International Inc.
Regent also has agreed to develop a new Masonic Lodge as part of the project, replacing the one that currently sits on the site.
The project will be designed in the Streamline Moderne and Art Deco styles, with buildings situated around a plaza and pedestrian area.
With construction due to begin in February, it will be final major project in Burbank Village, as the downtown redevelopment area is known. The area was set up in 1971 to spur commercial development on 212 acres of the city's downtown core.
"It will very much enliven the southern end of Burbank Village," said Ruth Davidson-Guerra, senior redevelopment project manager for the city. "It will add to the overall image and enhance not only the village but the city as a whole."
It also is expected to enhance the city's coffers, generating some $59 million in tax revenues over the next 20 years.
While city officials may be thrilled, the 20 or so small businesses being displaced are not as enthusiastic. They must be out by year end.
"All the businesses here would like to stay in the area. Most of their clientele is here," said Larry Chandler, owner of Mitchell's Travel Service. "A lot of people know where we are, but don't know our name. It's like starting all over in a new location."
As part of its development deal, Regent has agreed to help relocate the small businesses being forced out, but Chandler said some businesses still harbor ill will toward the project.
And some downtown merchants who will not be displaced have questioned whether Regent has arranged for enough parking. The approved plan calls for a new 984-space structure and an additional 200 or so spaces to be leased at the county courthouse nearby.
The Burbank Chamber of Commerce views the project as a means of enticing more upscale retailers and getting another hotel. "That will have a big impact on the draw and success of downtown," said chamber President Gary Olson.
Burbank's office vacancy rate at the end of the second quarter was 5.8 percent, the lowest in the San Fernando Valley, according to Grubb & Ellis Co.
In late 1998 and early 1999, the vacancy rate rose slightly when more than 950,000 square feet of space came on line in Burbank and Glendale, including the Media Studios North project, Glendale Plaza and 450 North Brand Blvd.
But brokers say the area still draws more office tenants than it can accommodate. While entertainment-industry growth has slowed, health care and insurance-industry tenants have picked up the slack. And that has area brokers optimistic.
"I like the project; it's in a good market," said Doug Marlow, vice president with CB Richard Ellis Inc. "We've seen activity pick up over the past several months. There's substantial demand."
Another plus for the project, which is slated to come on line in mid-2001, is the lack of competing office space that exists in the downtown village.
"Leasing in the (downtown) area has always been good," Marlow said.
The only other development in the Burbank Village area involves American Multi-Cinemas Inc. Just three blocks from the Regent site, at Palm Avenue and First Street, it will include a new 16-screen multiplex, situated across from the existing AMC 14-screen theater. The existing theater will be torn down and replaced with a parking structure. After that, Burbank Village redevelopment will essentially be finished.
"There are always opportunities to upgrade and enhance existing infrastructure, but in terms of development opportunities, the area is pretty much built out," said redevelopment official Davidson-Guerra
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