Tag Archives: michael cusumano

Pennies Spent Today are Dollars Saved Tomorrow

When Michael Cusumano was growing up in Burbank and playing Vikings football, enjoying the annual Jaycee carnival at McCambridge Park and riding his bicycle to Jefferson Elementary School, he hadn’t heard of Family Service Agency, though they’d been quietly working in our city for twenty years.

Michael Cusumano (Photo by Ross A Benson)

When he went to 5th and 6th grades at McKinley and moved on to Jordan Junior High and John Burroughs High School before getting his degree in economics at UCLA in 1984, the work being done by Family Service Agency wasn’t on his radar, though they’d been changing and saving lives in Burbank for thirty years.

And as he joined and expanded his family’s successful real estate company in Burbank, and volunteered for and supported numerous organizations in the community, Family Service Agency hadn’t crossed his path even though they’d been discreetly offering support and counseling services to Burbankians for forty years.

But ten years ago, after Family Service Agency had been serving our community for fifty-five years and had long outgrown its small space on Magnolia Blvd., then Burbank Mayor, Marsha Ramos approached Cusumano about a unique opportunity. The city was prepared to purchase a building for FSA on the condition that they could come up with the necessary funding to essentially gut and remodel the interior and purposefully design the space for their services.

The Cusumano family saw an investment in the future. With a $150,000 commitment that inspired additional donations and helped secure the necessary financing, Family Service Agency has been able to expand their reach over the past decade from their home on Burbank Blvd.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

“The investment made by the Cusumanos at that time was integral to a successful fundraising campaign, but more importantly, they established a key partnership that has enabled the delivery of outstanding services,” explained Ramos.

Cusumano was surprised to learn about the diversity of consequential work the Agency had been discreetly doing in our community for decades. Ramos along with Anja Reinke, Michael Wilford, Zeta LeFebvre and Mary Alice O’Connor introduced him to FSA’s growing efforts in the local schools, their work with victims of domestic abuse and with families and individuals in crisis. Then-Police Chief, Tom Hoefel, shared how valuable FSA is as a court intervention resource.

Laurie Bleick has served as Executive Director of FSA since 1991. She knows first hand what a difference the new building has meant to the organization’s services. “The Cusumano family’s lead donation to our building capital campaign has allowed FSA to increase Burbank’s mental health care for 19 BUSD schools, for families in our 3 transitional homes as well as for individuals, couples and families at our site on Burbank Blvd. by over 400% in the past ten years,” Bleick explained.

And in the decade since the building dream came to fruition, FSA’s financial stewardship has high marks as well. The organization has paid off the loan that renovated their space while giving 5 to 7 million dollars in counseling services annually on a budget of less than $1.4 million a year. Numbers like that are impressive to a businessman like Cusumano, but the personal success stories are what solidified his commitment to ensuring that FSA can continue and expand their work in the Burbank community.

And while Cusumano knows that FSA’s work crosses socio-economic and racial lines and affects all ages, it is the kids who most pull on his heartstrings and therefore on his purse-strings.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

His most striking memory was of touring the art studio and seeing the paintings, drawings, and sculptures done by children and teens. “They say art is a window into the soul,” Cusumano explains, “And when young people who are unable to express themselves verbally have the chance to do so through art it can have a real impact.” He was moved by the pieces created by children clearly struggling with heartbreaking challenges. “But then you see the pieces they’ve done once they are healed, and the hope and emotion that is expressed there is profound,” he explained. “When I saw that, I was sold.”

Cusumano is also impressed by the work FSA has long been doing in the Burbank schools where he has collaborated as a business partner with several Principals. “Kids bring the weight of their problems from home into their classrooms and it is impossible to expect them to learn without additional support,” said Cusumano, “Having a resource like what FSA provides so many families is crucial in the formative years.”

When he hears from principals about the needs in the schools and police officers describe the importance of intervention and the requirements for court-ordered counseling, it is clear to Cusumano that pennies spent today are indeed dollars saved tomorrow.

He realizes he was fortunate that when he was growing up in Burbank, he didn’t need the services offered by FSA. But he is grateful that the organization is now on his radar and he can do something to help. “I come from a big family. My wife, Caroline, and I have done some fostering and when I look at kids who are vulnerable and have to grow up in dangerous or uncomfortable homes, it is daunting, but we as a community can do something to alleviate that suffering and it is worth the investment.”

As Family Service Agency celebrates their 65th Anniversary this year, Cusumano hopes that the investments his family has made inspire others to get involved. Laurie Bleick and her team are truly thankful. “The impact of the Cusumano’s compassionate leadership is immeasurable,” said Bleick, “Their quiet generosity allows for a stronger, safer, healthier Burbank and I will be forever grateful for their constant commitment to Burbank’s most fragile children, adults and families.”

New Apartments, Businesses Included in Olive Stations Project

With a new influx of multi-use buildings heading to Burbank, one that is making a splash is the Olive Station development. The site of the future building can be located at the southeast intersection of Olive Boulevard and Lake Avenue. The land is currently owned by the Cusumano Real Estate Group.

In total, the building will feature 327 studios, one bedroom, two bedroom, three bedroom, and four-bedroom apartments. The variety in apartments is meant to provide options in affordable housing to Burbank residents. Hired to design the building will be the award-winning architectural firm Newman Garrison + Partners.

When asked why the Cusumano Real Estate Group when with Newman Garrison + Partners, Michael Cusumano said:

“We conducted an exhaustive search of all of the best design firms in this region, and went as far as to engage five different firms to produce concept drawings for the site, before finally selecting the firm of Newman-Garrison (NG+P) to design the project. And NG+P hit it out of the park. As is evidenced by the design submitted, and their plethora of design awards, Newman-Garrison will bring a new, cutting edge design to Burbank, and set the standard for all future mixed-use projects in the City. (NG+P) has completed projects in Spain, India, Russia, and in the Caribbean, as well as California, where they have designed some of the most recognizable southern California buildings in recent years such as West Park at Civita, The Ellington, The Q East, and the Dylan.

Olive Station will be an architectural landmark as well as a really fantastic place to live. Our team also includes such acclaimed firms as EPT Design (landscape architecture), KGM Architectural Lighting, and John Labib + Associates (structural and civil engineering).”

The goal of this building is to offer a choice to millennials and families alike. Cusumano hopes potential residents will take notice to Olive Stations’ location, amenities, design, sustainability, lifestyle, Affordability.”

To entice potential residents, plans for the building also include a an array of common spaces, which include a game room, a bocce ball course, a resort-style pool and spa with cabanas, outdoor dining/BBQ areas, fire pits, retail stores, an outdoor movie theatre, a media center, terrace amenities, a club/lounge area with a private wine room, and a state-of-art fitness center. Located at the ground floor will be a commercial grocery store.

When asked how Olive Stations plans to combat the affordable housing problem in Burbank, Cusuamano said; “First of all, no one has ever built “live-work” loft units in Burbank, and there are almost no 3 and 4-bedroom units in Burbank. No one has ever built this type of a project in Burbank. The Co-Work spaces will also appeal to millennials as well. And this will be the first project in many years where the Developer is including rent restricted affordable units. And great access to employment, Downtown Burbank and Metrolink station. Families, millennials, boomers; everyone will be attracted to this project.”

Olive Stations is expected to be completed by the year 2021. You can find the full list of amenities and features, provided by the Cusumano Real Estate Group, down below:

  • Amenities:
    • Full concierge service
    • Resort style lap pool & spa
    • Huge common spaces with fire features
    • Seating and cabanas throughout courtyards
    • Outdoor kitchen and dining areas
    • BBQ kitchen and outdoor dining
    • Beautiful garden landscaping
    • Water features
    • Several large lounging areas
    • Private lounge with billiard tables, big screen TV’s
    • High speed internet and Wifi
    • Screening and media room
    • Private fitness club with state of the art equipment, with spin and yoga studio
    • Business center with conference room, computers and professional print/ scan/ copy/ fax stations
    • Dry-cleaning and laundry drop-off and pick-up services
    • Private spa facilities for sauna and massages
    • Zip-Car access
    • Wine storage facility
    • On-site ATM
    • Bicycle parking, storage and maintenance with bike shop
    • EV charging stations
    • Ample guest parking
    • Gated community with key fob access controls
    • Roof top deck and lounge with bar, big screen TV’s and fire features
    • Dog park
    • Solar water heating
    • Solar PV
    • Co-work space
    • Extra storage facilities
    • 24 Hour package pick up and drop off system
    • Highspeed Electric Elevators

Apartment Homes:

  • Features:
    • Gourmet stainless steel “Jenn-Air” kitchen appliances
    • AT&T U-Verse with fiber cable to the units and 1G internet speeds
    • Stone countertops
    • Designer cabinets
    • 9’-11’ ceilings
    • High efficiency “Whirlpool” washer and gas dryer in units
    • Large private balconies
    • Private yards (selected units)
    • Fireplaces (some units)
    • Oversized walk-in closets with custom shelving
    • Energy efficient dual glazed windows throughout
    • Upgraded finishes throughout
    • Low VOC carpets, paints, and adhesives


McKinley Faculty Lounge Gets A Makeover

McKinley Elementary School teachers and staff have a newly renovated Faculty Lounge in which to enjoy breaks and lunch during the school day. Michael Cusumano of the Cusumano Real Estate Group, who is Principal Liz Costella’s business partner as part of a BUSD school/business partnership, donated the funds and supplies.

“In one of our meetings, I told him I wanted to make over the lounge as a gift for the staff,” explained Costella. “I was hoping for some new tables and maybe some chairs but never dreamed the outcome would be this wonderful and such a wonderful partnership. Michael ran with the idea and enlisted Tim Nelson from his office to be the project manager.”

Michael Cusumano and Liz Costella in the new McKinleyFaculty Lounge. (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Michael Cusumano and Liz Costella in the new McKinleyFaculty Lounge. (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Nelson set up a design competition with Woodbury University students, led by Woodbury faculty Catherine Roussel and Annie Chu, who organized and mentored the students’ work.

“The William McKinley Faculty Lounge project became a collaboration with Woodbury University and Michael Cusumano,” commented Nelson. “We wanted to offer a real-world project to the students at Woodbury and came up with a design competition partnered with the two student groups.”

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

“AIAS (American Institute of Architectural Students) and IIDS (International Interior Design Association) student organizations helped me come up with a design charrette that required students to form groups of at least four students (two architecture students and two interior design students) to collaborate and present their design to a panel that consisted of Michael Cusumano, Liz Costella and a few Woodbury faculty,” explained Nelson.

“The groups were given a budget for the project which they had to expense out in their proposal just like one would have to for a real-world project.”

The winning team consisted of Dylan Bachar, Cory Pham, Marieam Alhamody and Cynthia Nyirinkwaya. They were then tasked with working with Nelson to source vendors and revise the design to Costella’s recommendations.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Cusumano also donated 21 chairs, that were not part of the overall budget, which were then stripped, sanded, re-stained and reupholstered to fit the design. Cusumano Group employees donated their time to assemble the furniture and arrange the room.

The overall project from competition to completion took 4 months and cost $10,000, according to Nelson.

“Tim and his team worked all summer to buy the items and put the lounge together,” Costella said. “He personally stripped and stained all 21 chairs every night after work for over a month. This was also possible with the help of my office manager who was here during his time off to help let in the crew as well as help.”

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

“Not only did he help with the final touches but he donated his time installing ceiling tiles and anything else that was needed,” she added.

“This project was truly a collaboration between many participants and we are so grateful to be a part of it. The lounge is amazing and such a gift for our staff everyone loves it and feels so fortunate to have this incredible room at McKinley.”

“I am forever grateful to Michael for his support and helping me accomplish this,” Costella also said. “It is beyond my wildest dreams and we are so lucky to have this opportunity.”

‘Talaria At Burbank’ Envisions Progressive, Eco-Friendly Future

Earlier in 2013, the Cusumano Real Estate Group announced plans for ‘Talaria at Burbank,’ an innovative mixed-use residential and retail building to be located on a parcel of land bordered by the 134 Freeway, Alameda Ave. to the north, Lima St. to the east and Olive Ave. on the south. Pending approvals from the City on the project, the anticipated timeline includes plans to break ground in the summer of 2014, with completion by early 2017.

Olive Ave. and Lima Street perspective of proposed Talaria at Burbank. (Image Courtesy of Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh, AIA)

Olive Ave. and Lima St. perspective of proposed Talaria at Burbank. (Image Courtesy of Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh, AIA)

The area surrounding the Talaria project consists of primarily large office buildings housing NBC, Clear Channel and Warner Bros., with Disney, KCET, Providence St. Joseph’s Hospital and many more large companies and medical offices nearby. North of Alameda Ave. lies a large residential neighborhood of mostly single family homes and some small apartment buildings.

“We believe that there are a lot of employees that work in the general vicinity of this project that would be natural tenants here because they could walk to work and would enjoy the benefits of the many amenities that have been included in this project,” comments Cusumano Real Estate President Michael Cusumano. “We believe that many employees in the area that now drive home to Pasadena, Glendale or downtown Los Angeles would prefer to live in Burbank if the right property was available to them, and we have designed Talaria at Burbank to be just the property.”

Michael Cusumano looks at plans for Talaria at Burbank above the proposed development site. (Photo By Ross A. Benson)

Michael Cusumano looks at plans for Talaria at Burbank above the proposed development site. (Photo By Ross A. Benson)

The building is projected to have five floors and cover 404,933 gross square feet, costing about $150 million dollars overall. The Whole Foods store will be on ground level, with four floors of apartments above. Although building/city code only requires 665 parking spaces, 760 total parking spaces are planned. The Whole Foods Market is projected to be about 43,000 square feet. One-bedroom (821-1,010 sf), two-bedroom (1,255 – 1,492 sf) and three-bedroom (1,466 – 2,834 sf) apartments are planned for a total of 241 units.

Talaria at Burbank will be the first LEED-certified, “green” residential building in the City of Burbank. It will offer a state-of-the-art Whole Foods Market featuring a host of amenities the developers believe will be attractive to Burbank residents, including a restaurant with a patio and a beer, wine and liquors service. The store will feature plenty of bicycle parking for both employees and guests, as well as the Whole Foods’ customary, comprehensive array of fresh and organic produce, meats, seafoods, cheeses, wines and prepared foods.

Whole Foods Market, Olive Ave. entrance view. (Image Courtesy of Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh, AIA)

Whole Foods Market, Olive Ave. entrance view. (Image Courtesy of Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh, AIA)

The Talaria facility will be within walking distance to tens of thousands of media jobs and media employees whom the Cusumano Group believe to be ideal customers for both the Whole Foods Market and the Talaria apartments. The residential component will feature a host of amenities not matched by any other residential community previously built in Burbank, including electrical car charging stations, secure resident bike storage, a bike work shop, plentiful guest car and bike parking, a business center with conference room, a gym with weights, treadmills, spin studio, locker rooms and steam rooms, a large lounge are opening onto a resort-style pool with water and fire features and cabana, outdoor barbeque and dining areas.

The proposed site for Talaria at Burbank was first considered for development in the early 2000s. Another developer began to consolidate the various properties which now make up the site, comprised of more than 16 separate properties and 24 separate parcels. That developer successfully entitled the site for a mixed-use project that was nine stories in height, consisting of more than 500,000 square feet. However, the developer was not able to acquire all of the parts of the site from the various owners and the site became available. The Cusumano Real Estate Group acquired a portion of the site in 2008 and the rest of the site in 2009 and has been working on the Talaria plan since that time. Whole Foods proposed a significantly larger Whole Foods store in 2006 in the Burbank Rancho area which was rejected by the City.

The Cusumano Real Estate Group has completed a number of successful mixed-use commercial projects, but Talaria represents their first mixed-use retail and residential project. The project architect is Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh from Santa Monica, landscape and outdoor space architect is Melendrez Landscape Architects from Los Angeles, the LEED consultants are Homage Design from Los Angeles and A Sustainable Production from Sherman Oaks and the consulting general contractor is McCormick Construction from Burbank. Mr. Cusumano adds, “We anticipate using many local Burbank sub-contractors to work on the project, as we always do.”

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Street-level view of part of the proposed Talaria at Burbank site. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Other projects the Cusumano Real Estate Group has built in Burbank are the Cusumano Civic Plaza at 250 E. Olive Ave., the Olive Court Senior Apartments at 450 E. Olive Ave., Cusumano Plaza (Chase Bank Building/Elephant Bar) at 100 N. First St., Olive Court Senior Apartments at 1100 W. Olive Ave., Park Avenue Senior Apartments at 730 Whitnall Highway and the BJ’s Restaurant/Cusumano Real Estate Group Building at 101 S. First Street.

The Cusumano Real Estate Group has discussed and prepared for the relocation concerns of the current tenants in the few remaining, aging apartment buildings on the proposed site. “We will work with the existing tenants to relocate them to other properties in Burbank once the project is approved,” explains Mr. Cusumano. “The Cusumano Real Estate Group is the largest owner of apartments in the City of Burbank and we will be able to move the existing residents into other properties that we own more effectively than if another, ‘outside developer,’ simply bought the properties. We are in the apartment business; every month we rent 30-60 properties to new residential tenants. Relocating the forty or so households from this site will occur over a period of several months.”

“In the 1980s and 1990s, we built dozens of new apartment complexes throughout Burbank, which required the removal of older apartments and homes,” continues Mr. Cusumano. “And during that time, we relocated dozens of households.”

Talaria is the name of the winged shoes of the god Hermes or Mercury of classical mythology. “The Talaria carried the gods upward and was therefore, ‘uplifting,'” explains Mr. Cusumano. “Which is what we want this project to be.”

Future meetings on Talaria will be held, with times and dates to be announced. Burbank residents can get more information on this project and contact the Cusumano Real Estate Group by visiting the project website.