Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Monday, June 6, 2022, City Manager Kevin Phelps and Vice Mayor Aldama hosted a downtown merchants meeting. The City Manager wanted to offer in detail City Council’s decision to bring an internal city employee on board as Downtown Manager within the Economic Development Department and the city’s plan to renovate the city hall complex.

This new person will have the responsibility of branding and marketing downtown to a greater extent than is done now. In addition, this person will have the responsibility of working with property owners to fill store vacancies as well as encouraging new downtown investment.

He then explained the council’s $70 million dollar investment in renovating City Hall, Council Chambers, the parking garage and Murphy Park. All renderings used in the presentation were strictly conceptual for council is expected to approve contracts for design prior to its July break.

It seemed as if the merchant attendees failed to appreciate or acknowledge the importance of this major investment in downtown Glendale.

I make no secret or apology for the fact that I was one of the councilmembers who preferred moving city hall to the Westgate area. My motivation for such a decision was that it would have signaled a city council and senior management, forward looking and confident in Glendale’s robust future and that Glendale has moved into the 21st century.

I am frustrated by downtown merchants who spend most of their energy continually asking the city to do more and to invest more. I firmly believe that until such time as a broad swath of downtown merchants (not just the historic area) coalesce into a legitimate, 501-C3 downtown merchants association with ‘skin in the game’ in the form of dues downtown Glendale will remain adrift and rudderless. It’s way past time for these fractious merchants to come together and to forge a vision for their future the old-fashioned way, through consensus. It’s way past time for the downtown merchants, through internal debate, to create self-crafted goals and strategies that will benefit all.

However, majority still rules and a majority of council felt that $70 million investment in our city hall complex would signal to all that we still believe in the importance of a robust and successful downtown. I eventually did and still do support council’s hope that this will help downtown Glendale but after the merchants meeting my initial reaction was how ungrateful they are and the city can never do enough to satisfy them.

There were some very thoughtful questions offered at the meeting. I was impressed with those individuals. However, some topics raised offered an insight into just how fractured downtown merchants are. Some wanted the city to rid downtown of the homeless while others wanted to open public restrooms. Public restrooms are a magnet for the homeless. Witness the city’s closure of the Velma Teague library public restrooms. They were closed because they attracted the homeless who used them to the point that the restrooms became a public health and safety issue. And yes, the city promised to find out from other Valley cities if they have public restrooms in their downtowns and what do they do to ensure that they are safe, clean and healthy? Frankly I don’t think other downtowns have public restrooms. This will be interesting data collection. So, downtown merchants which is it? Do you prefer to reduce the homeless downtown or do you want to encourage them to come downtown by offering public restrooms?

Mr. Phelps explained the term, “experiential retail” using examples of venues that combine food and beverage with recreational experiences. One of the attendees felt that the $70 million for the city hall complex renovation rather should have been used in developing experiential retail for downtown merchants. Ah, no. While the city in the past has offered grants to improve the exterior of existent or new downtown buildings it cannot and should not use public tax dollars to enhance the business model of any individual’s business.

Another query centered around the use of food trucks at Glendale’s LIVE event at Murphy Park. Some prefer removal of the food trucks as they compete with downtown’s restaurants while others wanted to see a process that allowed them to compete for space.

Just to put my comments in perspective, I have owned two businesses in the Valley. In my first, to become a tenant of the retail complex, I had to join the merchant’s association, pay dues and commit to being opened a minimum number of hours every day of the week. In my second business there was no merchant’s association as I was in a stand-alone building but I put in long hours and was open every day of the week from 9am to 9pm.

I had my own “experiential retail” before it became a ‘thing’ by having people like Ted DeGrazia, Hugh Downs and Irma Bombeck visit and meet my customers. Successful entrepreneurship is made of equal parts of long hours, passion for what you are doing and always trying something new to attract customers. I didn’t rely on a city to attract customers to make me successful. Why are these merchants always expecting the city to market downtown or create new events for them to attract customers? There are small businesses all over this city that have never made such an ‘ask’. They struggle just as some of the downtown merchants but yet they persevere reliant upon their own talents and resources.

© Joyce Clark, 2022      


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