Two of Southern California's biggest developers are locked in a battle to build a plum $100 million redevelopment project in downtown Glendale.

Rick Caruso and Jerry Snyder, each with big reputations but vastly different styles, both made their presentations to the Glendale Redevelopment Agency last week.

They are hoping to win the right to build Glendale Town Center, a major mixed-use project planned for a 15-acre site at the intersection of Colorado Street and Brand Boulevard. Though the site sits in the shadow of the big Galleria retail center, the Town Center project could include some retail space, if it were filled with complementary rather than competing tenants, local real estate brokers said.

Retail is Caruso's specialty. His Santa Monica-based Caruso Affiliated Holdings has developed some of the L.A. area's most successful centers, including The Commons at Calabasas, Encino Marketplace and The Promenade at Westlake Village. Caruso is currently building The Grove at Farmers Market at Fairfax Avenue and Third Street. These are the sorts of town center projects, Caruso said, which qualify him for the Glendale contract.

Meanwhile, Snyder's J.H. Snyder Co. has built The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in West L.A., Water Garden II in Santa Monica and Wilshire Courtyard in Miracle Mile. His is a four-decade career that includes dozens of office, residential and retail projects.

Glendale's choice might boil down to experience.

Caruso is building some office space at The Grove, which is primarily a retail center, but he hasn't done any residential developments. Snyder has. To offset his lack of housing experience, Caruso has signed up Legacy Partners to build any residential units at the Glendale project. He vowed that components of the project from retail to possible office to residential uses would be seamless.

Snyder would build all components of his proposed project himself.

After Caruso and Snyder made their respective presentations to the Glendale Redevelopment Agency last week, the agency directed Jeanne Armstrong, Glendale's director of development services, and staff to return to its March 13 meeting with a recommendation for a vote.

Armstrong said that Caruso's inexperience with residential development is not a liability and that the addition of Legacy, a national residential developer, more than compensates for Caruso's greenness.

The city clearly seems to be expecting at least a major portion of Glendale Town Center to be retail space.

The adjacent Galleria mall is out of space, Armstrong said, and Glendale has to do something to retain shoppers who could bolt in greater numbers to Old Town Pasadena and Burbank Village, as well as Caruso's The Grove. Armstrong pointed out that 30 percent of the customer base being targeted by The Grove are people who now shop in Glendale.

Complementary approach

Clifford Goldstein, a partner in J.H. Snyder Co., said any retail component would have to be developed with care to avoid cannibalizing the Galleria.

"The Galleria is a major engine. It drives a lot of people into this area," Goldstein said. "If you put the wrong retailer in there, one with competition nearby, then you have a splitting of the dollars."

To prevent that, Snyder would market retail space to "lifestyle tenants" retailers that sell furniture and other household items.

Mark McGaughey, a first vice president with CB Richard Ellis Inc., said Glendale Town Center and the Galleria would fuel each other.

"They don't have to find (shoppers); 22 million people a year go to the Galleria," McGaughey said. "They are built in."

On the surface, Glendale Town Center sounds like the typical downtown revitalization project taking place in urban centers all over the United States. In reality, the city wants to create a lasting community landmark, something that's adaptable over time and will maintain a truly Glendale identity.

"We have always seen Glendale as more of a family town. We have never tried to be Old Town Pasadena. We haven't tried to be Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica," Armstrong said. "We don't want to just be a regional attraction of no use to the people who live and work here."

The real objective is to provide the people of Glendale with a community gathering place.

Public hub

"We're trying to put some heart and soul into it and make it the community place for Glendale," Armstrong said. "It's not just another development for us. There's no prototype and that's why it's been so difficult for us. We're trying to create something special here."

To that end, Caruso said he would build the public spaces first and then situate the commercial uses around them.

Snyder, too, said communal areas would "be the centerpiece of our project, the trick is what we put around it."

At least one City Council member, Ginger Bremberg, made it clear that she doesn't want to see a gaudy tourist attraction.

Goldstein of J.H. Snyder Co. said construction would reflect the history of Glendale, not Anaheim or Hollywood or Universal CityWalk.

"This is not Disneyland," Goldstein promised. "This will not be glitzy. This will not be movie-set architecture."

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