First, there was the soaring rise of efficient design. Then came the recession, which sank so many of the nation’s mortgage-bought properties. On the whole, the first decade of the new century wasn’t kind to the American dream of a spacious home in the suburbs with a lawn, a porch, and a two-car garage. Many potential homeowners began opting to stay in the city, in smaller spaces, as it became more and more clear that ever-expanding sprawl is not often socially, economically, or environmentally sustainable. Developers such as Los Angeles-based Caruso Affiliated took notice of these shifting attitudes, and in response they started looking for new (and profitable) opportunities in mixed-use urban development, including the Americana at Brand, in Glendale, California.
In 2002, Caruso developed the now-famous Grove at Farmers Market, a 600,000-square-foot shopping and entertainment complex in LA, with Nordstrom and Crate & Barrel as its major anchors, among other retailers. Elkus Manfredi Architects, a Boston-based firm, designed the ersatz Art Deco complex, which also included an animated fountain designed by WET and modeled after the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.
According to Tom Veje, executive vice president of construction for Caruso Affiliated, the Americana follows the success of the Grove while also adding a comprehensive residential component to create a truly mixed-use project. “Whereas the Grove is mainly one- and two-story retail spaces spread out over 15 acres, the Americana sits on a similar 15-acre site, with 475,000 square feet of retail space, 238 apartments, and 100 condominiums,” Veje says.
The site now occupied by the Americana formerly comprised eight blocks of old, blighted, or abandoned properties collected by Glendale over a period of time. In 2001, the city released an RFQ, which Caruso Affiliated responded to quickly, the success of the Grove still fresh in its partners’ minds and the new attitude toward mixed-use urban development beginning to show itself.
After clearing all of the codes and legal nuances that would allow such a large-scale development, Caruso broke ground on the Americana in 2006. The project was officially opened in May 2008, and as with its design at the Grove, Elkus Manfredi drew up the Americana to mirror post-World War II industrial-style design.
Aesthetic flourishes are largely relegated to the development’s façades, where various cladding materials and colors break up the rhythm of the balconied residences.
The units themselves are packed with high-quality finishes, and the buildings include myriad amenities such as park spaces, club rooms, a private fitness club, and concierge services. On the first floor, retail mainstays including Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co., Barneys New York CO-OP, Kate Spade, J.Crew, and others occupy more-standard box retail spaces.
“LA is a very spread out, urbanized place that has great communities all over the place,” Veje says, “and Glendale is one of those environments where we thought we could create an urban oasis where people will feel very secure and engaged with the built environment.”
Through the Americana, Caruso Affiliated is attempting to thicken the sense of community that suburban sprawl inherently spreads thin. “The idea is that, through the architecture and the landscape, there can be a sense of place,” Veje says. “It’s the kind of place where people would want to come and live, to come and raise families, but to also take advantage of the levels of service we’re providing in this place.”
In 2013, Caruso announced its plans for more than $60 million in renovations for the Americana, including a new Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, as well as two new restaurants. “As we celebrate (Americana’s) five-year anniversary, we are proud that the world’s most popular retailers and restaurateurs seek to partner with us,” says Rick Caruso, CEO. “We love being part of the transformation of Glendale.” ABQ