Concerted efforts gave rise to a unique mixed-use community in Downtown Glendale
by Tamara Philips
Laemmle Lofts in Glendale, California. was envisioned as an iconic gateway to the City of Glendale’s developing Downtown Art & Entertainment District. A half-acre site next to a theater offered a premiere location for a mixeduse development. “The contemporary architecture creates a contextually aware building with an urban downtown sensibility that stands out on the skyline and street level,” says Dirk Thelen, Principal at Withee Malcolm Architects. “In keeping with the neighborhood mix of uses, the building extends the fabric of the Arts District and reinvigorates the streetscape.”
The project consists of a four-story, mixed-use building featuring 42 apartments, located above street-front retail space and an underground parking garage. The building’s ground level is occupied by a Panda Inn restaurant and a Laemmle Theater. To reach the project finish line, a devoted team had to remain patient for more than six years. Entitlements for Laemmle Lofts began in the fall of 2011 as a city project, but the development was delayed when California eliminated redevelopment agencies across the state. With this speed bump behind them, the project approvals restarted in 2015, with construction starting in 2016 and reaching completion in 2017.
Through its redevelopment agency, The City of Glendale initiated the project. Glendale also donated the land and contributed some funding. Mapleton Investments was selected to work with Withee Malcolm Architects to plan and design the development. Withee Malcolm had previously completed other successful projects in Glendale and were familiar with city agencies and requirements. Serrano Development Group, who had also worked in Glendale and had a prior working relationship with the principals of Mapleton Investments, joined the project for the next phases.
Withee Malcolm continued to work with Mapleton Investments through the entitlement phase of the project; the developer then engaged DBB Architects to complete construction drawings. Mapleton Investments continues involvement as the project’s owner, along with Laemmle Theaters and RDS Development, who own its residential components.
The Lofts are part of the City of Glendale’s centrally located Downtown Art & Entertainment District. Maryland Avenue, which stretches through the heart of downtown, is picturesque with elements of enhanced paving and abundant landscaping. In addition to the businesses located within Laemmle Lofts, there is a group of other theaters, galleries, clubs, and restaurants along the street. One block over is The Americana at Brand, a popular shopping, dining, entertainment, and residential complex. “The contemporary architecture creates a contextually aware building with an urban downtown sensibility that stands out on the skyline and street level.” — Dirk
The theaters, which require 20-foot high ceilings to accommodate their screens, and the two-story lofts posed some structural challenges. The clear height of the theatre created the need for a higher podium deck than would normally be built on similar projects. The upper floor units were built as “loft” style units, with 18-foot clear heights in the living areas. Both conditions required thoughtful coordination with the design team.
With 42 units, the scale of the community offers a more intimate residential experience than many others in the area. The voluminous lofts on the top floor are light-filled and airy, and each apartment has beautiful bright white interiors. Although Glendale has experienced a recent boom in multifamily apartments with hundreds of new units on the market, most are large-scale developments.
Laemmle Lofts is more like a boutique hotel than a Marriott or Westin. “The renowned Laemmle Theaters animate the development at the pedestrian level while a can’t-miss, pop-art sign — an inverted ‘red carpet’ — visible at a distance from all directions, announces the cinemas with flourish,” says Thelen. “Floating above the transparent retail base, the articulated facade of the residential component provides color, depth, and texture.”
Each apartment is equipped with a Nest thermostat, washer and dryer, complimentary Wi-Fi, built-in USB outlets, and spacious walk-in closets. Onsite at the complex is an array of amenities. One such amenity is the GFC Fitness (Glendale Fighting Club) by Ronda Rousey and Edmond Tarverdyan, which provides tenants access to exceptional fitness facilities and training. Mapleton Investments saw their target tenants as
creative professionals, working locally and in areas such as nearby Burbank, who want an active urban lifestyle. It’s a dynamic neighborhood that is both pedestrian and bike friendly and within walking distance of transportation, corporate offices, and entertainment studios. The area has also proven to be a great location for hip, artful, urban living. In fact, the location’s diverse appeal led to The Lofts being 100 percent leased in just a few months.
Withee Malcolm Architects is including a more diverse mix of uses in its multifamily communities — from pre-schools and libraries to markets and theaters. “We are also exploring a wider range of unit types, including micro-units, and we are looking at more mixed-income communities,” says Dan Withee, Founding Partner of Withee Malcolm Architects. “With the growing housing shortage, we have to be studying the full scope of possibilities.” Serrano Development is currently working on two additional projects with Laemmle Theaters, in Newhall and in Azusa.