Glendale’s Newest Venue, the Americana, Offers College Students a Chance to Work Off Campus

Arpee Markarian

On the morning of May 2, hundreds of men, women and children stood in a line that wrapped around the corner of Glendale’s newest open-air retail and residential development.

Some of them had been waiting since 7 a.m. for the grand opening of The Americana at Brand, a $435-million, 15.5-acre complex on Brand boulevard which includes more than 70 retail, restaurant and entertainment venues, condominiums and apartments.

There are many job opportunities for students at the new complex.

Among the places students can look into are The Cheesecake Factory, (A/X) Armani Exchange, Aveda Lifestyle Salon, and the Pacific Theatre 18-screen cinemas. By working in either of these places, students from a variety of majors such as business administration, restaurant or retail management, culinary arts, mass communications, and marketing can gain transferable skills they can apply to their future careers.

The creator of this town center, about 2.5 miles from campus, is Rick Caruso, founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated, a real estate development company that has built other outdoor sites such as The Grove in Los Angeles.

While trying to move forward with his project, Caruso faced years of opposition.
In 2002, General Growth Properties, owners of the Glendale Galleria across the street, began a campaign against the construction of the Americana, filing two lawsuits against Caruso concerned about negative impacts to their business.

Glendale residents, divided on the issue of the outdoor mall’s effect on the city, voted on a measure in 2004 that backed the City Council’s approval of the decision to proceed with plans to develop the Americana.

On opening day, Caruso joined with Glendale Mayor John Drayman and other business and civic leaders for the opening ceremony on The Green, a 2-acre grassy area in the center of the village.

“Welcome to your Americana at Brand,” Drayman said to the cheering crowd.
He thanked Caruso for partnering with Glendale to bring “this wonderful new symbol that will characterize not just a retail and shopping destination, but that also will symbolize the rebirth of Glendale as a premiere city in California, and the rebirth of a great new economic engine for Glendale.”

After a champagne toast, and as the USC marching band played, dignitaries and individuals from the crowd took the first ride through the venue on the orange-colored, two-car trolley, circa early 1900s, cutting through the red ribbon and officially opening the Americana at Brand at 10 a.m.

Reflecting the jovial mood of the crowd and the positive hopes expressed by the mayor was Glendale resident Johnny Arrazola. He followed the path of the trolley, smiling from ear-to-ear, cheering as he strolled through the plaza gazing up at the buildings he had been waiting to see since 8:30 a.m.

“The reason why I have a smile is because I’m seeing everyone enjoying a good time out here in the public,” Arrazola said. “It’s wonderful, I love it. .There is a lot of potential for business here, and for a lot of wonderful things to happen.”

Unlike Arrazola, however, GCC student Edwin Lopez, who is taking computer classes, was not as happy with the new structure.

“I don’t have any plans of going there any time soon,” said Lopez, who lives one block from the Americana. “What’s the point of building a mall next to a mall?

“One of my concerns is the traffic, which is already visible,” he continued. “There are other things of course . like too much consumerism. Why do we need more trendy shops? It seems like they are trying to kind of make it like a small Beverly Hills, where you have to have money to hang around. It’s kind of pushing out the people without money.”

With the addition of upscale shops like Barney’s New York Co-Op has come an increase in law enforcement in the surrounding area.

Throughout the day, helicopters circled above the complex, while police officers kept vigil, directing the mounting traffic on Brand Boulevard and Central Avenue.

Glendale police sergeant Javier Ruiz said the [police] department has been working for months with the management staff of the Americana and the city’s traffic engineering department to develop a plan to manage traffic throughout the entire downtown retail district.

“Although there are a lot of cars and people coming into the center, traffic has been moving very smoothly”, said Ruiz, “we have received absolutely no complaints.”

“We have adequate police and law enforcement personnel on hand to ensure it maintains a nice, safe environment,” said Ruiz.

This added security will also help businesses in the immediate area, which have benefitted from the influx of people.

“So far, since it opened, we have had a little bit of increase in business,” said Angel Cauich, assistant manager at Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant and Bar a few blocks away.

“We have noticed that a lot of the customers have said it has been too busy and pricey for them to dine for the night [at the Americana at Brand]. The prices are a little bit too high, and with the economy right now, a lot of people are not spending a lot of money.”

This security can also direct students to the shops they want to apply to for work, which GCC has helped students find.

Kathy Kostjal, student services technician at the college’s Job Placement Center, said students are asking about employment opportunities at the Americana, and are looking at the current job posting they have for Gilly Hicks, a retail store described as the “cheeky Australian cousin” of Abercrombie & Fitch, which will open later this year.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for our students because it has made a lot more jobs available in Glendale,” said Kostjal.

She said in the 11 years she has been at the school, she hasn’t seen any other event in Glendale that has brought so many opportunities to students.

Even Judie Apablaza, Career Center counselor next door to Kostjal, has informed her students of job opportunities at the Americana.

“I try to talk it up because it’s a wonderful [job] opportunity,” Apablaza said to those who have seen her for help with their resumes. “You’re looking at a tremendous amount of people just in entry-level jobs.”

Some students were already working on opening day.

Dressed in the traditional white jacket and pants, black bow tie, and black and white hat, Michael Jun, business major, sold 99-cent ice cream on the opening shift for the 1931 Ford Model A Good Humor Ice Cream Truck, one of only two available in the United States.

David Brown, nursing major, operated the 180-foot steel and glass elevator tower that harkens back to the industrial era. Clad in a navy jacket with gold trim, charcoal grey pants, a pillbox hat and white gloves, he spoke with people about the surrounding landscapes on their ride up.

Even though most places on site are staffed, students have job opportunities to look forward to.

Tiffany & Co. and Calvin Klein open this summer, followed by others later this year.

Although the Job Placement and Career Centers on campus are working with the student body, right now there are no official partnerships with the Americana to help maximize job opportunities for students.

But the college is optimistic.
“Now that the Americana is completed, the college would be happy to explore partnership opportunities,” said GCC president Audre Levy.

Until then, students can apply directly through the individual retail stores and restaurants, or through for office jobs and management.

The Americana at Brand is located at 889 Americana Way. It is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Self-parking and valet is available on the property.