I have a feeling that most of these changes will be transparent to the public at large--- meaning that some otherwise mundane facility improvements are being tacked on to the big expansion project. NBC Universal, Thomas Properties and the MTA also need to effectively design a pedestrian sensitive TOD solution around the MTA Red Line subway station property. Currently it's a real drag to walk from the station across busy Lankershim Blvd. to a rickety tram ride up the hill to Citywalk.
The residential component parallels the mostly undeveloped east side of the property along Barham Blvd. Not much there except for parking lots for production vehicles and heavy equipment.
Universal unveils blueprint for its $3 billion expansion
BY GREG HERNANDEZ, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Daily News
Article Last Updated:12/06/2006 09:34:24 PM PST
UNIVERSAL CITY - After more than a decade of false starts and neighborhood opposition, NBC Universal unveiled a $3 billion plan Wednesday for its 391-acre property that aims to boost tourism, create a new community of 2,900 apartments, condos and town homes and improve transportation.
Designed as a blueprint for the next 25 years, the plan also calls for expanded studio production facilities, more office space, and a "refreshed" Universal CityWalk and its adjoining theme park, Universal Studios Hollywood.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, flanked by local business leaders, hailed the proposal as "a blockbuster" at an afternoon news conference outside the entrance of CityWalk.
"I think you can tell by the look on my face that today truly is a great day," the mayor said. "It's a great day for Los Angeles, a great day for the San Fernando Valley, a great day for our economy, the entertainment industry and especially for the future of urban development in Los Angeles."
Those behind the plan say it would result in 11,000 new full- and part-time jobs once the project is completed and 17,000 jobs during construction.
The existing and future studio, retail, theme park and residential
areas are expected to generate about $21 million in new annual revenues to the city and county of Los Angeles and more than $4 billion a year in total economic activity throughout Los Angeles County.
But announcing the plan is just the first step of what could be a contentious process. Since Universal City resides in both the city and county of Los Angeles, NBC Universal must file applications with both jurisdictions.
The proposals will be subject to a public review and hearing process that previously derailed development proposals.
But Villaraigosa aggressively tried to sell the plan Wednesday.
"The truth is, we have no choice," he said. "With a housing crisis, traffic congestion and an ever-growing population, this is the face of smart, responsible, environmentally friendly development for the future."
Seeking a clean slate, NBC Universal has been meeting with residents to keep them informed.
But a meeting Tuesday night left many with more questions than answers, said Polly Ward, president of the Hillside Federation, an umbrella group for 40 area homeowners associations.
"We did not feel we got any purposeful information on what they are planning," Ward said Wednesday. "Knowing homeowners groups as we do and as they do, they may be concerned about our reactions to specifics.
"Everyone is concerned about traffic. How is traffic going to get in and out? That's the major issue. Spicing up the business on CityWalk and revamping the backlot, all that stuff doesn't bother us."
In March, Universal announced it would be working on a plan after more than a decade of starts and stops caused by changing ownership and other snags related to traffic and noise.
At that time, officials said they were scrapping any previous development plans and meeting with residents every three months.
Villaraigosa also sought to reassure residents.
"While I welcome this project with open arms and I completely understand your legitimate concerns about its magnitude and scope ... let me be clear: I have NBC Universal's commitment that this project will be a national model for community involvement, input and collaboration. The community will be a part of the process every step of the way, and I will personally hold NBC accountable to deliver on that commitment."
If approved, the plan would give Los Angeles three signature entertainment complexes, including l.a. live near Staples Center and the Grand Avenue project.
"Not too many metropolitan areas can say that," said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
"(Universal City) is going to be very important because it's an investment into the second- and third-largest (industries) in L.A. County as measured by employment: tourism and motion picture and television production."
Key elements of the revitalization of the film and television production facilities include new and relocated outdoor sets, new postproduction facilities, soundstages, a screening theater and an expanded prop/costume shop.
Idea for offices, more
There would also be 335,000 square feet of new office space, including two new buildings and an enhanced child-care center with improved parking.
NBC Universal and adviser Thomas Properties Group will negotiate with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a proposed studio and office at the Universal City MTA station.
It would include 200,000 square feet of production facilities and 450,000 square feet of entertainment-related offices. Thomas Properties is also proposing a second phase at the MTA campus that would not involve Universal but would include a 400,000-square-foot office building with retail and parking.
The plan would also include protection and promotion of the historic Campo de Cahuenga and additional parking for MTA transit riders.
Plans call for a refreshed Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, with new attractions and enhanced retail and dining facilities totaling about 80,000 square feet within the theme park.
It would include improved and expanded parking and improved landscaping and pedestrian connections to the MTA station.
At CityWalk, work would include upgrading the movie theater complex and enhancing retail and dining facilities. A new 100,000-square-foot live production studio would offer guests the ability to become part of the action.
About 124 acres of studio property would become a residential neighborhood known as "Universal Village." Made up of apartments, stacked lofts, town homes and condos, the complex would include 35 acres of open space with hiking trails and parks.
Within three villages, about 2,900 residential units would be connected by a street that would serve as the spine of the neighborhood and a town center with 100,000 square feet of dining and retail businesses.
NBC Universal is working with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the MTA, Caltrans and the community on transportation proposals they say are designed to enhance mobility throughout Universal City and the community.
Improvements under consideration include a shuttle system from Universal Village and throughout Universal City to the MTA station and a possible on-ramp to the southbound 101 Freeway from Universal City.
Other improvements include modification of the intersection at Forest Lawn Drive and Barham Boulevard and the possible widening of the Barham Bridge at the Los Angeles River.
Key points of the development proposal for Universal City:
A 3,000-seat enclosed entertainment venue
A 500-room hotel
A residential neighborhood called "Universal Village" made up of apartments, stacked lofts, town homes and condos
335,000 square feet of new office space and 390,000 square feet of production facilities
Transportation improvements that include a shuttle system from Universal Village and throughout Universal City to the MTA station; construction of a North/South "Great Street" through Universal Village connecting Forest Lawn Drive to Coral Drive; and freeway access improvements, including possible construction of a southbound entrance to the 101 Freeway from Universal City.