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A Vibrant Village: Celebration of Community, Culture and Connection

By Stephen Kelly, senior editor

Americana at Brand is a 15.5-acre mixed-use project in Glendale, Calif., L.A. County, combining residential living (238 apartment homes, 100 condos, pools, courtyards, amenities), an outdoor mall (75 shops, 17 restaurants), two central greens, mini-streets, trolley transport, a spectacular water feature, abundant landscaping, 18 theaters, a playground, a six-story garage, plus underground parking.
Photos: Lifescapes International

Regal Teak LAF

You’re Now Entering the Twilight Zone

Whether arriving via the escalator from the subterranean parking or descending in the elevator from the six-level parking structure and enjoying the view through the glass enclosure, you find yourself suddenly transported in space and time to a peaceful but bustling village green, greeted by spouting fountains, an “ol’ town clock, colorful hanging baskets of flowers, beautifully appointed landscapes, a grass so well maintained and manicured that it feels like carpet beneath your feet, decorative pole lighting with stained glass lamps, tidy, neat streets and sidewalks, and …what is that? a shiny red trolley quietly (it’s electric), leisurely approaching you, shuttling people about town.

What place is this? What year is it? Have I left the earthly plane? No, you have entered … Americana at Brand.

Year-round lighting elements on the green include the pendant tree-mounted galvanized steel lanterns (60W), bullet lighting (39W ceramic metal halides) for the flowerbeds and gas lanterns mounted on poles along the fountain walkway. “Brand” is named for Leslie Brand (1859-1925), who built the El Miradero estate in Glendale in 1904 (now Brand Park) and a private airstrip in 1919.

The Glen in Glendale

Americana at Brand landed in Glendale, Calif., northern Los Angeles County. It’s bordered east-west by Brand Blvd. and Central Ave., and to the south by Colorado Street. Glendale, if you’ve never been, is nestled against the Verdugo Mountains. Just west of the Glen is what Johnny Carson liked to call “beautiful downtown Burbank,” home to NBC, Warner Bros., Walt Disney Co., et al.

The “Brand” in Americana is for Leslie Brand (1859-1925), who built his El Miradero estate here in 1904 (now Brand Park) and a private airstrip in 1919. Aviation, in fact, put Glendale on the map. Glendale’s Grand Central Airport, built in 1928, is considered an important part of U.S. aviation development.

These days, admittedly, Glendale is perhaps best known for its role in the fast food culture, being home to the Bob’s Big Boy and Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors chains. In local news, there has been recent sitings of cougars in Glendale parks.

An elegant and unusual piece of outdoor lighting is the 12-ft. x 10-ft. Grand Chandelier suspending above Caruso Ave., the trolley route. The chandelier is by historic lighting designer Ernesto Aleman, who drew inspiration, it’s said, from an 18th century chandelier crafted for Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (1816–1867). The Americana version sports 1,200 crystals (but whose counting), 55 bulbs and was handcrafted by ELA. It features etched, flat “pendalogues” (hanging prisms) and almond drop crystals from the Czech Republic. (Note: Americana also has a 17-ft. tall Art Deco chandelier in the lobby lounge!)

Glendale’s neighbor to the east, you’re certainly familiar with. It’s Pasadena, host to the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game.

To Glendale’s southeast is Eagle Rock, mentioned not because it has a “hip” reputation (it does), or because it has a big boulder that viewed at certain angles at certain times of the day looks like the brow and beak of an eagle, but because it is home to Occidental College, a private school attended for two years by a fellow named Barack Obama, before he transferred to Columbia University. Anyway, that’s the neighborhood.

Front and back! Rick Caruso, president/CEO of Caruso Affiliated, the developer of Americana at Brand commissioned the 23kt gold leaf 18-foot tall “Spirit of Youth” that replicates (except for the gold) American sculptor Donald De Lue’s (1953-56) “Spirit of American Youth” memorial at the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in France. Statues of the developer’s three children are posed beside the main fountain.

The Groovy Grove

After $400 million and two years under construction, Americana at Brand (AB, for short) opened May 2, 2008. An estimated 475,000 people appeared, as if by magic, for the long anticipated opening weekend. The developer, Rick Caruso, is known for The Grove, a Los Angeles destination just east of Beverly Hills near the Farmers Market that offers mega shopping, genial gastronomy, myriad theatres, fancy fountains and free concerts in the park. Other than the location, you’ve just described AB!

Americana at Brand, some contend, is The Grove on steroids. AB covers four city blocks and has all the elements of the Grove, but it is also a residential development! More on that in a moment. AB, like The Grove is high-end retail, versus the nearby, more down-to-earth Glendale Galleria.

Central Avenue separates the Galleria from AB. On the west side of Central Ave. (no tracks here) it’s JC Penny; on the east side of Central it’s Barny’s New York CO-OP. Hmmm…in these troubled economic times, it’s not hard to figure which mall is the busiest.

The Green includes a playground for the 5-12 year-old set. A 30-ft. tall pink tulip tree is the backdrop. The playground is right across from the kitson boutique, described by the retailer as “already … the favorite stop for many celebrities and the who's who in Hollywood.”
Photo: Adam Scott Kelly

The Galleria sports a quite nice Nordstrom, an Apple store, a Macy’s, a Frederick’s of Hollywood, Florsheim, etc. AB offers GUESS by Marciano, Lacoste, Calvin Klein, Bokaos Aveda Lifestyle Salon, Lululemon Athletica, Michael Stars, et al. You know it’s upscale when the name is Italian, French or you’ve never heard of it!

Editor’s note: AB is not all upscale. There is a three-story Barnes & Noble that anchors the retail and individual vendors in kiosks at one end of the Green. One spot was selling “electric cigarettes” (you blow vapor, not smoke)!

The Waters of Americana at Brand has 242 SuperLights™, 575-watt, custom made lamps by WET. The pool has 131 nozzles that can lift up to 600 gallons of the 90,000 gallons into the air at one time. There are six MiniShooter nozzles (100-ft. spray), 111 MicroShooters (60-ft. spray) and 14 Fan Oarsmen (70-ft. spray). The two Fan Oarsmen (fan-shaped sprayers) in the middle of the large spray ring project 200 gpm; the 12 around the perimeter of the large ring spray 150 gpm. About 80-90 percent of the water recirculates back to the basin. During the choreographed fountain/song shows, an average of 600 gpm is recirculated. The fountain uses a UV sanitation system. There are only two filter pumps (200 gpm), one cascade pump (400 gpm) and a single skimmer (100 gpm).
Photos: Lifescapes International

Home, Oh Sweet Home

AB is what developers like to call a mixed-use development. Secluded back of the retail area is Excelsior, “100 prestigious condominium homes (that) represent the pinnacle of luxury.” Excelsior owners, we’re told, “revel in 5-star hotel-style living with unparalleled amenities and … truly pampering One-Call™ concierge services.”

Excelsior amenities include a private fitness club; resort-style pool, spa; outdoor fireside retreat; luxurious library (not a common alliteration); club room with demonstration kitchen, dining area; “lobby ambassador” (we think this means doormen); four high-speed private residential elevators; independent residential gated parking garages; high-speed broadband internet; onsite car wash; valet parking for residents; full-time concierge call center; home delivery from select AB restaurants and onsite security.

Editors are not pampered types, but that sounds pretty good! A person could, if the food wasn’t being delivered that morning, descend from this “pinnacle of luxury” to Beard Papa, the cream puff maker, and eat the delectable treat outside of Tiffany and Co., á la Audrey Hepburn.

Environmental Lighting for Architecture (ELA) of City of Industry, Calif. produced custom stained-glass (and clear) lanterns, arms, and pole assemblies for Americana, along with five individually-crafted wall mount units to softly illuminate the landscape and complement the architecture. The poles are straight, fluted extruded aluminum with cast bases in five heights: 24', 18'-4", 5’, 14’-4" and 8' 6" (including lanterns). Lighting is via a 70 or 35-watt T6 ceramic metal halide lamp (at the top), plus 12 25-watt CP19 clear lamps. The poles also support banner, signage and hanging baskets (impatiens, fuchsias, ferns, ivy, trailing petunias, ageratum and daisies.)

Those not into film nostalgia, from Excelsior condo owners to the man on the street, can attend one of the 18 AB theatres to see the movies they feel semi-obligated to see, i.e., the recent Academy Award winners, before opting instead for a few good laughs—some stupid movie like the Mall Cop, for instance, or the latest effort from Will Ferrell.

Perhaps you prefer a pad to the pinnacle. If so, you’ll love The Residences at AB, your choice of 238 luxury-apartments (four communities) where “Living in style is more fun than ever.” And who doesn’t want to have fun? The apartment buildings are above the retail, as high as four stories up and of various architectural styles.

The apartments all have terraces and offer amenities like “lush pool & spa deck, state-of-the-art gym” and, of course, concierge services.

The Gomaco Trolley Co. of Ida Grove, Iowa constructed two open-style trolley cars for Americana at Brand. Car #1717 is 33 feet long and battery-powered (runs on standard 600 volt D.C. system); the unpowered second car, GiGi, is 22-feet long and pulled behind the first car.

“A Resplendent and Verdant Garden Setting”

The horticulture on display at Americana at Brand is diverse, explains Don Brinkerhoff, FASLA and CEO of Lifescapes International of Newport Beach, Calif., the landscape architectural firm for the project. The diversity reflects, he says, the many plants immigrants brought to California in the earlier days of the state. The mild Southern California climate allowed most of these plants to thrive, which Mr. Brinkerhoff notes is why the area developed “one of the most sophisticated and extensive landscape nursery businesses in the world.”

“We consider our gardens outside rooms,” says Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, president/CFO of Lifescapes International. “This also applies to gardens that surround the buildings in which we work and the centers where we shop, eat and play, and certainly our homes.”

Americana at Brand is a modern village, a new city landmark with a sense of history,” says Don Brinkerhoff. “Rick Caruso had the city in mind when we jointly designed the Green as a gathering place for civic events and a destination to attract people from nearby homes and businesses,” referring to the luxurious grass betwiks the fountain and retail. The Green, Don continues, is designed and built on a pedestrian scale. “There are short distances to walk, the buildings are close to the sidewalks and walk paths and all situated within a safe, comfortable and beautiful environment.”

“We create beautiful, safe and exciting neighborhood centers-all within a comfortable ambience,” explains Rick Caruso, president/CEO of Caruso Affiliated, the developer. High-quality design and engaging the community he believes distinguishes his developments from the competition.

Lifescapes International, now part of the Caruso “family” of design team members, understands what is expected and delivered on that promise. The firm has over 50 years of experience creating gardens throughout California and an intimate knowledge of what plant materials thrive on such a property, plus the knowledge and resources to find the many plants at local nurseries and other sources throughout the state. The firm’s design team set out to create a resplendent and verdant garden setting for Americana at Brand.

Designing pedestrian-oriented places, Lifescapes says, means embracing the human scale over the vehicular, while still accommodating traffic and parking. The subterranean parking close to the Green is one such convenience. A tall parade of Washingtonia palms, in combination with lemon citrus and annual color combinations of petunias, margarite daisies, impatiens and red-leafed begonias, define the entrance to the underground parking. Underneath, at the valet area, kentia palms, orchids and other shade-oriented plant materials continue the lushly landscaped vision at the project.

Americana at Brand opened May 2, 2008. The 15,000 holiday lights turned on Nov. 15. Light strips, 1.8 watt (clear) lamps, are mounted along the roof edges of the vending kiosks. These fixtures require remote 277V/24V transformers. Between the kiosks, ground-mounted T6 ceramic metal halide lamps accent the trees. California sycamores, pink tulip and Bradford pears are the predominant street trees.

Eat Your Heart Out

AB offers numerous choices to sate the palate; The Cheesecake Factory, Frida Mexican Cuisine, Nestle Toll House Café and Richie’s Neighborhood Pizzeria, for instance. While some of the shopping may be upscale, there is some reasonably priced foodstuffs. We ate crêpes—not the thin, flimsy kind, but sturdy crust-like crêpes shaped like large-mouthed cones full of good stuff that did not leak out the bottom! We also partook of fresh crème puffs. Both choices were my wife’s. Credit where credit due.

Park Your Children

A children’s play park is part of the Green. During the Christmas season, as you can see from the images, an area is reserved for a towering Tannenbaum and Santa’s house. The 2008 tree lighting ceremony had an estimated 50,000 people attending. Santa, that rascal, arrived in a balloon!

The spectacular 80-ft. dia. fountain at Americana at Brand was created by WET of Sherman Oaks, Calif. WET, co-founded in 1983 by former Disney Imagineer Mark Fuller, has 400 employees, designers of all stripes, and has produced over 200 designs in the U.S. and in 20 countries. The Bellagio Fountains and the Mirage Volcano in Vegas are two of their most viewed designs.

Flourishing Flora, Bountiful Arbors

Fully grown, signature trees accent the park: two giant Jacaranda trees (33-ft. and 38-ft. tall) with lavender-colored flowers; a 30-ft. tall coral tree with red blossoms; a pretty 30-ft. pink tulip canopy tree, and a statuesque, multi-trunked California Sycamore reaching 45 feet into the sky. In addition, thousands of flowers are also featured in and around the park including over 12 different varieties of roses.

Over 144 hanging baskets drape down from the street lights throughout the 15.2 acre development. Some of these baskets are designed for shade oriented flowers such as fuchsias, wandering Jew, ferns, ivy and impatiens while others are designed for full sun exposure and feature flowers such as trailing petunias of blue, white, pink, yellow and red flowering varieties, Ageratum (baby blue flowers) and white daisies.

Many plants and shrubs are also planted at the residential levels above the retail area, including Showbiz roses, Intrigue roses, giant lily turf, sweet viburnum, lavender, peach, white angel trumpets, hydrangeas, hyacinth, tulips, pink camellias, espaliered podocarpus, bromeliads and much more.

There are traditional elements such as double spiral Thuja and juniper spirals in pots at the front of residential entrances and along the sidewalks and walking paths. Special agaves and aloe succulents are also planted in pots at the residential units.

Japanese boxwoods are planted along the sidewalk edge and along the exterior restaurant areas to help define these unique spaces and guide guests and visitors into the stores and restaurant areas.

Over 10 varieties of palms totaling in excess of 230 fully grown trees, celebrating the warm California weather are featured at the property. Some of these varieties include date, sago, Mexican fan and pygmy date. The dominant palms at the residential levels are the queen and medjool.

California sycamores, pink tulip and Bradford pears are the predominant street trees. Chinese flame tree, purple robes, Japanese privets, skyrocket junipers and Purple Leaf Plums abound. There are over 560 mature trees, deciduous and evergreen (17-45 feet tall), plus 230 palm trees.

Americana at Brand
Developer: Caruso Affiliated
Architect: Elkus/Manfredi
Landscape Architects: Lifescapes International
Fountain: Wet Design
Lighting: Visual Terrain

The Waters of Americana at Brand
Glendale , Calif.
Completed May 2008
WET®, Sun Valley, Calif.

Americana at Brand Lighting

Photos: Adam Scott Kelly

These steel poles and cast aluminum bases (13' tall overall) along Brand Blvd. have post top twin-arm assemblies and acrylic acorn globes that use (2) 70 watt ED17 (clear) ceramic metal halide lamps.

The accent lights in the flower/tree beds are luminaries (Lumiere) with field adjustable optics and 39 watt T6 ceramic metal halide lamps. The fixtures are also tree-mounted with straps.

Well lights accent façades and trees (beneath tree grates).

The pendant tree-mounted cylindrical lantern fixtures (galvanized steel) with bronze patina powdercoat finish and clear seeded glass (sides and bottom) use a single 60-watt B-101⁄2 clear, candelabra-based lamp. The lanterns dangle from the trees on The Green.

Light post of tapered cast aluminum pole (8'-6" overall) with decorative spiral pattern column is mounted with an aluminum gas lantern frame, steel support arms with brass roping, clear glass globe, white opal glass dome and dual open flame burners with shut off valve.

Looking up at the chandelier suspended above Caruso Street provides an interesting perspective. You take for granted (hope) the chandelier is properly secured. The aluminum frame alone and weighs 600 pounds.

Lighting Fixture Manufacturers

2nd Avenue Design
Alpha One
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Arroyo Craftsman Ryther-Purdy Co.
Arte De Mexico
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Eric Industries
Evergreen Lighting
Fc Lighting
Framburg Lighting
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Pathway Connectivity
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Regency Ceiling Fans
Rinaudo’s Reproductions
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Roberts Step Lite
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Spring City Electrical Manufacturing
Sterner Lighting Systems
Steven Handelman Studios
Sun Valley Lighting
Teka Illumination
Tpr Enterprises
Troy Lighting
Urban Archaeology
Visa Lighting Corporation
Vista Lighting
Vista Professional Outdoor Lighting
Winona Lighting

Plant Vendors

Plant Vendors
AJJ Associates
Baron Brothers
Color Connection
Country Garden Nursery
Growest Nurseries
Instant Jungle
JC Associates
Jordan Farms
Norman’s Nursery
Senna Tree Co.
Sunny Slope Trees
Valley Crest Tree Co.
WD Young & Sons


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