Armenians Among Many Young Business Leaders, Entrepreneurs on Elevé Skydeck
BY ELISE KALFAYAN
Clear skies and a perfect sunset graced the impressive Elevé Skydeck last week for the May meeting of Glendale Young Professionals . The business networking group has been able to meet in new downtown Glendale locations including Elevé Lofts and Skydeck, 9021PHO restaurant and ICIS Apartment Homes. A building boom is changing the skyline, with some projects just opened and more under construction. Glendale Young Professionals is building rapidly as well: the offshoot of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce has attracted many young professionals and entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds and career paths.
I attended the event to hear City of Glendale Director of Economic Development Phil Lanzafame talk about the status of downtown developments and Glendale’s plan for an 18-hour arts and entertainment district. I ended up having conversations with many young Armenian professionals, some acquaintances already, others newly introduced.
On hand to greet me and other prompt arrivals was GYP Council member Maria Sahakian, Director of Marketing and Events at the Alex Theatre. Sahakian books the venue and works with producers to draw audiences. Elevé Lofts and other mixed-use apartment buildings going up near the theatre offer prospective consumers for arts and entertainment. Sahakian will be working on marketing initiatives and future bookings while the Alex Theatre is closed this July-November for much-needed upgrades.
Also there early was Alexander Keledjian, candidate for the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees, Area 1. Keledjian is a community volunteer and recognized public servant and is still under 20 years old. He is endorsed by many elected officials, including almost all of those in his home town of La Canada Flintridge, LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Glendale City Council member Ara Najarian. About to complete his studies at PCC on an accelerated schedule, Keledjian knows how to get the most out of community college. Telling me “PCC is in desperate need of a breath of fresh air,” Keledjian added that this is the perfect time for him to run for the Board. He wants to strengthen ties with the local school districts and improve relationships among PCC teachers, students and the community.
Meher Kourouyan, principal of Reel Light Pictures and one of the event sponsors, was there all night taking fantastic high resolution photos of the socializing and views (check them out on his client blog and on the Glendale Young Professionals Facebook page). “After shooting my first GYP event a few months ago, I saw how organized and friendly the committee was,” he said. “The GYP seems to be growing from one event to the next, with a core group of professionals who are always present and new faces who join regularly. They are giving local professionals and businesses a chance to promote themselves and flourish, whether the location is a new restaurant looking to gain some buzz or a new Luxury Apartment Complex looking to gain exposure.”
Ara Kachadourian, a civic-minded financial advisor I’ve worked with on community events, was there. I learned he had relocated his practice from the west Valley to Pasadena (while remaining a downtown Glendale resident). He commented that the developments going up (“in particular the Elevé project”) add a new dimension to the area – a live, work and “recreate” environment. He also praised the GYP, saying that under the leadership of Louie Sadd and Shant Sahakian the group has created networking opportunities and engaged various business and civic leaders in Glendale. “The crowd is diverse and certainly excited about what they see taking place!” Kachadourian advises firms, executives, business owners and families, and notes that stakeholders in the city are engaged in a positive way with both the private and public sectors.
Shant Sahakian, founder and President of Sedna Solutions and a leader on the GYP Council, was busy all evening and I just got to say hello. Earlier in May he took an industry trip to Washington, D.C. (meeting with California Senator Barbara Boxer among others). Returning to Glendale, he addressed a Chamber of Commerce luncheon (where I had talked with him the week before) on the subject of social media strategy. Sahakian’s firm provides internet marketing, web design, advertising and consulting services.
Crescenta Valley Weekly journalist Michael Yeghiayan was on hand as the Weekly is expanding its coverage southward in Glendale. “Over the last few years, Glendale has undergone some remarkable changes. It has developed so much from when I grew up here!” Yeghiayan is optimistic about Glendale’s potential, and was interested as I was in hearing about the city’s post-redevelopment economic plans.
Later that evening, I met Carina Khanjian, who is beginning her PR and media/communications career at WCG and also working on Alex Keledjian’s campaign for Pasadena City College Board of Trustees. Khanjian was the media and communications intern for the ANCA Leo Sarkisian program, and co-organized the marketing campaign for The Sandcastle Girls, including a book-signing event on Capitol Hill that she was able to get featured in POLITICO”s “The Huddle” and as a headline story on The Hill’s The Washington Scene webpage.
Erik Yesayan, who works as a Planner with Cordoba Corporation and currently serves as Glendale Planning Commission Chair, was there as well. I had worked with Erik on the Glendale Safe and Healthy Streets Plan. He is now an active member of Walk Bike Glendale. I wanted to know about the group’s plan for a Pastry Walk in Montrose (no date had been set yet). He told me he was looking forward to volunteering and participating in the LA River Ride on Sunday, June 9. Walk Bike Glendale is also helping the Armenian Cycling Association promote a fundraising ride to San Diego for the Armenia Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Both rides begin in Glendale.
Yesayan wasn’t directly involved in the city’s work with Elevé Lofts, but told me, “This project, along with Five Star Cinemas less than a block to the north, will be great additions for the evolving Maryland Entertainment District.” (Five Star Cinemas is planned as a luxury moviegoer experience with comfortable reclining seats, food and bar/beverage service.)
Tamar Hadjimanoukian, who works in Glendale’s Public Information Office, serves on the GYP Council, and thanked the meeting speakers at the conclusion of the event. Her comments to me on the GYP: “A number of public and private companies are headquartered in the city, making our mixers the perfect location for networking and career opportunities. GYP events showcase amazing local businesses.” She encourages everyone to attend the June event at Golden Road Brewery.
After the sun set, guests gathered to hear the speakers: Phil Lanzafame and Alan Dibartolomeo, Chief Development Officer of American Multifamily. Lanzafame talked about Glendale’s vision for revitalizing downtown, and credited Elevé Lofts’ completion to the city’s new “concierge service” for planning and permitting. He said that when Redevelopment ended, he worried that the work the city had done and planned to do with Redevelopment funds was threatened. He stressed that the city has made a commitment to continue developing downtown properties and assets even without Redevelopment, and to creating an 18-hour district with arts, entertainment and dining options that will appeal to the demographic for Elevé Lofts and other new buildings.
The number of projects now seen in various stages of completion, the monies the city is committing for Alex Theatre needed technical upgrades, and other prospects now in the planning stages (including the Five Star Cinemas, and the Glendale Central Library renovation!) bear him out.
Dibartolomeo followed, giving the younger crowd insights into his real estate development career and confirming that his firm worked well with Glendale staff to produce Elevé on a previously-distressed corner with a vacant Circuit City shell, just a block away from The Americana at Brand). The project features units of all sizes in a high-density environment, with the Skydeck as the leisure draw (the Skydeck experience that night sold itself). Dibartolomeo mentioned that the full sixth-floor deck was only possible because of close work with the city. Elevé is hosting an open house June 13; Glendale Young Professionals is meeting again soon at Golden Road Brewery; and downtown Glendale continues to feature cranes and frames as the building spree continues.
Elise Kalfayan is a Glendale resident, a native Southern Californian, and a combined first/second generation Armenian-American. She has produced or edited print and online pieces on topics ranging from urban development to Armenian Church history. She is the publisher of a Glendale community news blog, and works as a contract writer, editor, and publishing consultant for clients including businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and memoirists. She is also President, Friends of the Glendale Public Library, and a big fan of the Glendale Pops!