The Americana, In a Nutshell

by Atina Hartunian

The one-time bedroom community of Glendale has recently been jolted out of its sleepy state by the Americana, a splashy new outdoor mall centered squarely in the middle of Brand Boulevard. Some call the structure an ostentatious eyesore. Its developers, Caruso Affiliates, are determined to make the outdoor “entertainment center” into the “center of town.”

Let’s call it for what it really is, shall we? It’s an outdoor mall. Cap a roof over the 15.5 acres of prime property and you basically have an extension of the Glendale Galleria. Many failed attempts at creation of that nucleus have been made, most recently the Glendale Marketplace, which sits on the other side of the Americana on Brand. Perhaps hard economic times are to blame, but two major chain stores—Tower Records and Linens 'N Things—have closed down, with no other business stepping up to replace them. So much for being the center of the community’s attention.

The empty storefronts sit right across from the newly-polished Americana, like some vexed omen. Will the Americana suffer the same fate?

the Americana

The local government is gambling that it won’t. In fact, the local government is depending on the success of the Americana to bring in revenue, as well as create new jobs in the community. They hope that the Americana will do to Glendale what the Grove did to the Fairfax area. Caruso’s crazy construction crew also created the Grove, and at the time it was considered insane to set up a multi-million shopping center in a predominantly Hassidic neighborhood.

Well, Caruso is still crazy, to think that he can sell this as a place where families can “relax” and “lounge” in a safe environment, in a community that has a lot of kids. Though the place is geared to the 20- and 30-somethings, anyone in their right mind will stay away from that zoo once it’s filled with baby carriages and bratty pre-teens running on the freshly manicured grass. Maybe Caruso just doesn’t know better.

What about the homegrown businesses up and down the rest of Brand? Obviously, they’re not thrilled. Some believe it will cause even more traffic on the Boulevard, which will deter visitors from staying to explore other businesses in the area. Others think that, in the long run, the flow of traffic to the Americana will trickle over to them as well. Either way, the businesses on Mid-Brand (which includes the historic Alex Theatre) are banding together to create more community/family-oriented events to bring people towards the north end of the Boulevard.

the Americana

Local Glendale-ians are also concerned with potential traffic along already overflowing streets. Structures that tower over the shops create an even more cramped and crammed feeling when you walk through them or by them, or pass them in your car. Wedged between one of the Galleria’s parking lots and the gaudy-looking Golden Key Hotel, the Americana has had to squeeze itself into the 15-acre piece of prime property. (A special thanks goes to the Golden Key, for standing up to this manufactured crap. I’m sure it really pissed off Caruso and Crew).

What has some concerned is the outrageous price of the surrounding apartment buildings and lofts, ranging from the low $700,000s to $2 million, with rents from $2,000 to $5,500 a month. Nathan Wong, a local resident, was quoted $650,000 for an entry-level one-bedroom condo. You could buy a house with that kind of cash.

Over lunch I asked him what his thoughts were about the Americana. He slammed down his coffee mug and said, “You would think that all the foot traffic and the sales from the [high-end] retail stores would be more than enough to lower prices for entry level home ownership.” But that’s not the case: Caruso believes that the city of Glendale is somehow ripe with disposable income, willing to shell out the hefty price of the luxury spaces. Creating affordable housing for the rich, enforcing an even more rigid divide between the income brackets.

Maybe Caruso and friends should change their motto to “Caruso Construction, keeping social classes where they belong.” Because I haven’t yet heard of anyone who’s actually moved into the Americana. Have you?

Atina Hartunian was born and raised in Los Angeles. She has also lived in Santa Cruz, and while there she sold sea shells by the sea shore. She sold her business when she gave up on the dream of returning to the sea as a mermaid, like she was in her recent past life. Instead, she turned to writing as her solace. She is a website content manager and freelance writer. For inquiries, comments, questions, or marine concern please e-mail her at ahartuni@hotmail.com.

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