City council holds reinvestment project workshop

The Glendale City Hall Complex is slated to receive a major facelift from the Downtown Reinvestment Project. (City of Glendale/Submitted)

Glendale City Council recently hosted another workshop to discuss the plans to renovate the campus and improve upon the city hall building, Murphy Park and other aspects of the campus.

Holly Street Studios’ principal, Diane Jacobs, and City Manager Kevin Phelps, presented a 60-slide presentation to show the updates that have come along since the project’s last workshop in November 2022, including three detailed plans at three different price points.

From being in the very beginning stages of planning and designing back in August 2022, the council has had four separate updates and workshops that led to the Jan. 6 workshop. Jacobs and Phelps began the workshop by presenting the council with a brief history of what has happened from the project’s initial conception in 2017.

“It’s really a handful of projects under one umbrella,” Jacobs said.

Throughout the presentation, Jacobs depicted many things that were thought to have needed fixing. She discussed that the city hall building was starting to break down, as over time things like the stairs and elevators have become dated and the walls were leaking air and water.

Murphy Park was also discussed during the presentation. Renovations for the park will focus on accommodating a bigger crowd and have more space for performers at its amphitheater.

“The walkability and the uniqueness of Downtown Glendale is an asset that anybody starting a project like this from scratch, would be thrilled to have,” Jacobs said. “The fact that you’re doing this work right in the heart of Downtown will speak volumes as to the economic development opportunities moving forward and beyond this campus.”

After going through the specifics, Jacobs and Phelps presented three separate options of possible renovation plans. The project was given a $70 million budget for Holly Street Studios to follow.

The Base Option was the first presented. It offers the most minimal of renovations of the three options, but it is as close to the $70 million budget out of the options, clocking in at $70.4 million. It will still include multiple improvements to Murphy Park, the city hall building, such as a new skin on the building and repairs to the roof.

The Opportunity Option was the second. This serves as the happy medium of the presented plans, coming in at $85.7 million, $15 million over the budget.

“In this scheme, we’re taking care of deferred maintenance for the main buildings city hall, and we’re refreshing city council in a way that I understand is meant to happen in the future anyway, but doing it all at once so that we’re not disturbing the site multiple times,” Jacobs said.

This option builds upon the Base Option. It includes better renovations to the city hall building, parking garage, amphitheater and infrastructure around the campus. It also would add solar panels to the roof of the city hall building.

The last of the three is the Aspirational Option. This is the most inflated of the three, clocking in at a whopping $100 million roughly. A set dollar amount was not available as the plan is still in early design.

“This scheme begins to look at the possibility of bringing city council functionality into city hall with the idea of the smaller footprint needed to do the business of city council and bringing that into city hall,” Jacobs said. “And this is just conceptual. At the moment, we’re able to expand Murphy Park to a whole other level of green within your village center.

“In this scheme, you still have the plaza on the lower left of the entry plaza from the parking garage. But, also the amphitheater is now at the street level. So you begin to make that connectivity at a whole other level with the amphitheater to Downtown Glendale and it begins to kind of open up and synthesize to a greater extent.”

Following the presentation, the city’s councilmembers peppered the presenters with questions. Councilmember Lauren Tolmachoff took the lead asking questions regarding the need to spend so much more money on the opportunity and the aspirational plans. She followed up by asking about how safe the building would be on the side of Glendale Avenue, and for the need to renovate the whole building rather than reskin it.

Councilmember Jamie Aldama was more concerned with the public, as he felt they should be adequately represented in the thought process and decision making of which plan to go with.

“The first question is, how much of these final designs or thus far, A, B and C took the input from our citizens?” Aldama proposed. “Can you answer that? So how much of this has to do with what they asked?

“When you’re wanting to spend $70 million plus, $85 million plus, $100 million plus, and they had some input on what they expect from this project. I would expect that we back up and say, this meeting should have been theirs and should have said, ‘Here’s what we’re looking at, what are your thoughts so we can get some guidance from the council.’”

Councilmembers Bart Turner, Ray Malnar and Ian Hugh posed questions regarding other aspects of the plaza.

At the end of the day, Phelps and Jacobs were unable to persuade the council to come to a final decision on a project plan. Mayor Jerry Weiers suggested a future meeting be planned to further include the public.

“Thank you, I listen to everybody; everybody makes some valid points,” Weiers said. “We struggle with this all the time, every time we want to make a decision. There’s always a certain amount of people that want to postpone and slow the process down. And that’s not always bad. It’s not necessarily always good either.

“I think maybe I would ask our city manager the possibility of maybe posting some sort of presentation to the public, getting some input and possibly bringing this back in the very, very near future.”