By Jason KUROSU
The group behind the proposal for an Armenian American Museum in Glendale held a community forum Tuesday night, discussing their vision for a cultural and educational center that some residents believe does not suit the neighboring community and will compound local traffic problems.
Residents packed the pews of the Bethany Bible Presbyterian Church to hear the latest regarding the potential museum, which may one day reside at the corner of Verdugo Road and Mountain Street, currently a parking lot next door to the Glendale Civic Auditorium.
The museum’s backers envision a site that will examine the experiences of the Armenian people and other cultures, as well as host educational events and lectures for students from Glendale Community College and throughout the Glendale Unified School District.
Fifty percent of the museum’s space will be dedicated to Armenian history, while the rest of the site will be a traveling museum, featuring exhibits from around the world. According to Executive Committee member Zaven Kazazian, the group has already received inquiries from museums in Paris and Spain, among others.
“We want to make sure that we emphasize that we want to educate the public about the Armenian experience only because that will also translate into learning about other cultures,” Kazazian said.
Approval is still needed from the city, though the reception from the Glendale City Council during a December council meeting was largely positive. Further discussions with the city council are expected to take place in the next few months.
The museum organizers would have to enter into a lease agreement with the city, but construction and operational funding would solely come from other sources. According to Kazazian, nine Armenian organizations are currently raising funds to cover building and construction costs. Donations would be also needed to keep the museum operating into the future.
“There is hardly a museum that is self-sustaining based on the revenue that it’s generating. So we don’t expect this to pay for itself as far as generating revenue,” Kazazian said.
Glendale-based Alajajian Marcoosi Architects have created the initial design for a 30,000 square foot structure on the 1.7 acre property. Kazazian said the location was ideal due to its proximity to the college and its central position within the City of Glendale, allowing for accessibility for the entire city’s population.
However, the size, scope and intent of the museum as a potential global attraction have residents concerned that already clogged streets will be further inundated by motorists visiting the museum and parking on residential roads.
Cheryl Frees-Yvega, president of the Royal Canyon Homeowners Association, said past feedback stemming from concerns regarding traffic, sound and the museum’s fit within the community have not been addressed. Other residents from the Royal Canyon neighborhood, which sits across the Verdugo Wash and along Mountain Street, echoed her sentiments, stating that it was unclear how the museum would benefit or complement the community.
“From what I’ve seen, this design is almost the antithesis of what we talked about,” Frees-Yvega said.
Royal Canyon residents may also face the construction of a 650 space parking garage by Glendale Community College at the same location.
Museum advocates did not hesitate to point out that the college’s project could be built without city approval.
“If the college wants to build something, they don’t have to go and get any approvals from the city. They can build anything they want, any way they want it, any color they want it, without getting any city approval,” Kazazian said.
Residents questioned how the museum would fit within the community, to which Kazazian admitted that the building is intended to “stand out” to some degree.
“We want something a bit modern so that we can have an iconic building that will be inviting for visitors.”
How many visitors the museum would attract remained a sticking point for the residents. Kazazian said a traffic study would be conducted, analyzing potential impacts on Mountain Street, which feeds into the Royal Canyon community.
During the museum’s regular 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. operating hours, Kazazian said that they expect around 100 people to be occupying the building at any given time. One-hundred-and-sixty-five subterranean parking spaces will accommodate museum visitors and current existing parking structures will be available at the Civic Auditorium and St. Gregory’s Armenian Catholic Church.
The expected maximum occupancy of the building is currently unknown, however.
Executive Committee Chair Berdj Karapetian said that community input was not being ignored, despite feelings to the contrary from some residents.
“If the majority of the residents of Royal Canyon do not want to see the museum built on that intersection, we are not going to be building a museum on that intersection,” said Karapetian.
Three more community meetings are currently scheduled in January and February. The next meeting will be Sunday, Jan. 17 at St. Gregory Armenian Catholic Church at 2 p.m.
For more information on the museum plans, visit www.armenianamericanmuseum.org.