Monday, April 04, 2011

Signs of Problems at the Americana?


Glendale resident Gerry Rankin has a bone to pick with Americana at Brand developer Rick Caruso -- and Glendale's city council -- asking in Sunday's Glendale News Press:

How does a developer who doesn't even live in this town get all the power in the world to change the landscape here? Is the City Council even awake?

The Americana, just a few years old, is already showing some cracks -- and doesn't appear to be anywhere as successful as Mid-City's The Grove. Take all the empty storefronts, some of which have never been filled since the Americana's 2007 opening. Boarded-up walls on the Americana have promised that Panini Cafe was "coming soon" to the corner of Brand and Colorado -- but four years later, Panini Cafe is nowhere to be found. Instead, the sign is peeling (above) and looks terrible.

And yet... Caruso felt the need to acquire and tear down a hotel and old building next door in order to expand the Americana. He promised more retail and more jobs for Glendale -- and then turned around and announced days later that he was actually swiping Nordstrom from the Galleria. No new retail or jobs. Oh, he has promised to find a suitable tenant to replace the Nordstrom location at the Galleria... but we'll see if he has any luck, as the area faces a glut of empty storefronts. (Borders, at the corner of Brand and Broadway, is set to close any day now. Across the street, the old Mervyn's location at the Galleria has been vacant for years.)

Could the bloom be off the Americana rose? The anonymous folks behind the blog Caruso Is Unfair seem to think so. Granted, they appear to be disgruntled kiosk shop owners stuck with exorbitantly high rents.

But they do bring up some interesting points: According to the blog, several kiosks, including Nestle's Toll House, Kurtosh Bakery, Stewies Snowcones, and Primo Cafe, have gone under, while the eateries owned by Caruso (including Jewel City Diner and Delucas) are doing much better. The blogger also claims that the kiosks are unbearable in the summer, due to the heat, and that the rents remain high.

As for retail, "There's Kitson's which had a drawn out legal battle, and moved from their gigantic location next to Barnes & Nobles and downsized to a smaller shop and STILL couldn't make it. There was Lara's Closet who took over Kitson's spot and couldn't last too long and which is now occupied by Sephora. At least Hurley's was smart enough to sign a short term pop up lease and left without getting stuck there for years. There was Peek, which turned into Fan Clothing which was then booted off to the limbo land of Caruso Ave to make way for Kaitlyn."

Also gone: Paperchase, Martin + Osa, and Ruehl. Luring away Nordstrom is a huge coup for the Americana -- but it doesn't change the Glendale landscape at all. (Apparently KTTV's Jillian Reynolds recently criticized Caruso's Calabasas Commons development, prompting a response. Read about it here.)

UPDATE: The Glendale News-Press reports that Caruso paid the owners of the Golden Key Hotel a whopping $16 million to take over the property. I'm wondering if Caruso so needed the land in order to lure Nordstrom over (adding a critical anchor department store to the Americana) that he was willing to open the pocketbook that wide.

ALSO: Tropico Station points out that the Americana is now starting do go downscale, luring away a Fantastic Sam's franchise and an AT&T dealer to fill some empty space. Both of those stores were lured from a strip mall across the street, so it doesn't even mean new jobs.

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