As a long-time downtown Glendale business and property owner, civic leader, former city of Glendale vice mayor, and proud Glendale champion, I have lived through the transformations our entire community has gone through. And I will be the first to say change is never easy but it is essential to our sustainability as a city.
The world around us is constantly on the move, and in order to move with it, we have to be open to the change inevitable and able to adapt both as residents and business owners.
When you run your own business, you have to admit you don’t know everything, and it is vital to know when it’s time to turn to the experts. In my role as Downtown Glendale’s Strategic Leadership Advisory Group chair of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, I feel the same responsibility to always be seeking experience, knowledge and expertise from beyond our locale, to ensure we are best prepared to seize our opportunity.
At the monthly Downtown Merchant and Stakeholder meeting held at Off the Cuff, on Jan. 21, we were incredibly privileged to be joined by three experts who were eager to share what they see as Downtown Glendale’s opportunity. And while I was pleased to see the room full for this invaluable exchange of knowledge, the conversation was far too important not to share with the greater Glendale community.
The esteemed panel of redevelopment experts included:
• Amy Malloy, managing principal of Evolve Ventures, with over 13 years in commercial real estate, managing retail development and redevelopment projects throughout the southwest, including Scottsdale Fashion Square, Kierland Commons, Biltmore Fashion Park and Arrowhead Towne Center.
• John Crow, the CEO of Centurion Investments, a real estate corporation providing service in the areas of residential sales, management, and investments, as well as commercial property management and development.
• Mark Davis, owner of 48 Development Co. who is an accomplished real estate developer focused on urban infill development projects. Mark also worked at one of the nation’s largest multifamily developers, Alliance Residential Company.
Amy, John and Mark each have an intimate knowledge of Downtown Glendale, and this was an exclusive chance to hear how they perceive our community as developers and investors. The questions asked were straightforward but not necessarily easy to answer.
The panel was asked to identify Downtown Glendale’s biggest hurdles in attracting redevelopment to the district, and conversely our greatest assets. As it relates to commercial real estate trends they were asked to identify what are currently the specific drivers for success in business districts. And pointedly, each panelist was pressed to explain why they have not invested in redevelopment in Downtown Glendale despite their affinity for the district.
Here’s what the panel had to say!
Increase Residential Density – This was perhaps the MOST prevalent point stressed by all of the panelists. They all unanimously agreed the catalyst will spur revitalization in Downtown Glendale is new residential development, specifically high-density, multifamily projects.
With several, large college campuses within a few miles of Downtown Glendale, the area is prime for student housing options and could significantly benefit from new, multifamily housing stock.
Be Open for Business (and open to new ideas)! Each panelist shared the existing business community plays an important role when attracting new investment. The community needs to come together around a vision, and most importantly, businesses need to be open. Not only open for commerce, but also open to new ideas when they are presented. As one panelist stated, divisiveness kills development.
Grow the Experience Market. We can’t be everything to everyone, so it’s important to identify the target customers that will financially support Downtown Glendale’s economic health. The panelists all identified the shift in retail consumption and pointed to the “experience market in which retailers focus on creating interactive experiences for their customers. The panelists specifically mentioned downtown’s existing global restaurant offerings and suggested strategic events to highlight these unique spots as an experience. With the strong emphasis on attracting density, the panel also agreed downtown’s existing inventory of retail space is at capacity, and the focus should be on ensuring the retail offerings meet the target customers.
City Investment. The panel was not shy to share their opinions on the role the city plays in spurring redevelopment. Included in the panelists’ suggestions for the city were purchasing property in downtown to drive adaptive reuse, establishing regulatory programs as incentives to minimize development barriers and commit resources to maintain a clean, safe downtown.
Absentee Owners Overshadow Good Bones. In response to the hurdles and assets question, the panel agreed Downtown Glendale’s asset is inarguably our great bones - a built environment and building stock that is authentic, and highly sought-after. Yet, one of our greatest hurdles continues to be absentee owners and the resulting high vacancy rates of commercial space in downtown.
-Incorporate Art, the inclusion of art as a stimulus for revitalization continues to be true, and the panel agreed, the incorporation of art as placemaking is a significant contributor to community development and economic vitality.
Certainly, the summary above does not do justice to the extended dialog this panel so graciously offered, but it does provide a solid path forward with opportunity that is within our reach! I would like to say thank you again to John, Amy and Mark for sharing their expertise with honesty and a genuine passion for our community.
And perhaps most important to note, this open letter is not only intended for those who are already committed with a vested interest in Downtown Glendale. This is also for those of you who have yet to explore our best-kept secret. So let me be the first to say to the development community that we welcome your interest, we are open for business, and we are ready to partner with you to unlock the full potential of Downtown Glendale together!