Studio owners revise plans for $1-billion update of Television City

Television City’s owners have scaled back plans to expand and modernize the iconic Los Angeles studio, where CBS began producing shows for broadcast nationwide at the dawn of the era of television.

Formerly known as CBS Television City, the studio sits next to popular tourist attractions like the Original Farmers Market and Grove Mall in the Fairfax neighborhood, where it has operated since 1952 as a factory for broadcasts hits such as “All in the Family”. “Sonny and Cher” and “American Idol.”

CBS sold the famous studio for $750 million in 2019 to Hackman Capital Partners, one of the world’s largest movie theater owners and operators. CBS continues to occupy Television City as a tenant.

An architect’s rendering of the office and production space planned for Television City, an entertainment studio in the Fairfax neighborhood of Los Angeles.

(Courtesy of Foster + Partners and Television City)

Hackman Capital announced a $1.25 billion plan two years ago to expand and upgrade facilities on the Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue grounds in hopes of tapping into the region’s strong demand for stages sound systems, production facilities and office space for rent on studio grounds.

Hackman Capital will update its application to the city to improve the studio on Friday, saying it was responding to comments on the project from nearby residents, stakeholders and city officials. If approved, the new project is expected to be completed by 2028.

The studio’s owners also brought in a new design architect, Foster + Partners. The London-based firm is led by Norman Foster, a leading architect whose designs include the pickle-shaped Gherkin skyscraper in London and the master plan for the One Beverly Hills condominium and hotel complex, a worth $2 billion, under construction in Beverly Hills.

Hackman Capital, which operates studios in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, is also responding to changing conditions in the office rental market, which has contracted since the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many companies to work remotely at least some of the time. There are still plans to create new offices, but there will be fewer of them.

Foster’s new design eliminates a 15-story office tower on the west side of the land, removing 150,000 square feet of office space to rent to entertainment companies. Another 15-story office tower remains in the plan, but other building heights have been lowered, particularly along the perimeters, Hackman Capital said.

People in an outdoor space between buildings

Architect’s rendering of the plans for Television City.

(Courtesy of Foster + Partners and Television City)

The plan still represents a more than 980,000 square foot addition to the 25-acre site at Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, which maintains a low-density, suburban-style appearance with soundstages, low-rise offices and entertainment facilities. support flanked by asphalt parking lots.

The company’s proposal plans to combine old and new space to create 700,000 square feet of office space to support field production and an additional 550,000 square feet of office space to lease to entertainment and media companies, the company said .

Office space behind studio doors is in high demand in the Los Angeles area and has been snapped up in other studios by major Hollywood players such as Netflix and Amazon.

“The industry wants to have a place where they can produce and have offices in a self-contained campus environment,” said real estate broker Jeff Pion of CBRE, who represents Hackman Capital. “Having all the different components that make up production in one place is very attractive to the industry. »

Plans for Television City also call for a new commissary and more than four acres for production base camps. Streetscapes would be improved to be more attractive to passers-by, with wider sidewalks.

On Fairfax Avenue, where pedestrians now pass through a fenced parking lot, there would be stores and restaurants serving the public on the ground floor of office buildings accessible only from inside the parking lot.

The separation is part of the balancing act Hackman Capital is trying to make Television City feel more neighborhood-friendly while maintaining the security and exclusivity of a gated campus that attracts celebrities and others who make films and television shows.

Landlords can also charge a premium for offices located on movie lots because they’re close to the action of independent production companies and offer the cachet prized by many in the entertainment industry.

Filming activity in Los Angeles has declined significantly following strikes by writers and actors last year, according to FilmLA, a nonprofit organization that tracks on-location filming days and filming permits in the area. region. The downward trend compounded a decline that emerged in late 2022, as on-location shooting in Los Angeles plunged as studios cut back on film and television production that had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

people are sitting at tables outside

A rendering of the entrance to the planned mobility center on Fairfax Avenue, where shuttles came and went from a nearby subway station.

(Courtesy of Foster + Partners and Television City)

California is particularly hard-pressed to recover from strikes because it costs more to film here, several production executives told the Times. That makes Los Angeles less attractive to studios looking to cut costs after a major industry disruption.

For Michael Hackman, managing director of Hackman Capital, the economic downturn and the withdrawal of filming in California suggest that regulators and studio operators should provide more support to production companies.

“Our current clients tell us they all want to stay in Los Angeles,” he said. “We have the best teams in the world here, but we don’t have enough modern soundstages in the best locations. We also need to push the state to implement tax incentives so we don’t lose business outside the city.

“The entertainment industry is our city’s signature industry and if we don’t invest in the future, we really risk losing it,” Hackman said. “We are still emerging from a double strike that only happens once in a generation. And the production shutdown cost Angelenos an estimated $6.5 billion or more in lost wages and economic activity, making it clear how important this industry is to our city, and especially for people who work in entertainment every day.

Hackman Capital’s proposal calls for increasing the number of stages at Television City to at least 15, from 8, as well as production support facilities.

To make way for the planned additions, parking would be converted from surface lots to garage structures and underground spaces capable of parking 4,930 vehicles.

Two stages built in the 1990s on the east side of the grounds would be demolished as part of a planned reconfiguration of the site.

The four original stages built by CBS in 1952 would be preserved along with other historic design elements created by Los Angeles architect William Pereira, who also designed notable structures such as the futuristic theme building in the middle of the airport Los Angeles International and the Transamerica Pyramid office. tour to San Francisco.

Pereira’s long-range plan for Television City, conceived in the 1950s, was expansive, said Bob Hale, creative director of Rios, the master plan architect for the makeover proposed by Hackman Capital. Hale said Pereira’s original concept called for the complex to expand to 24 stories and 2.5 million square feet of production space, including several multi-story office buildings.

“It was built in such a way that it could be taken apart and expanded incrementally,” Hale said. “For several reasons, this did not happen.”

In an effort to achieve this now, Hackman Capital decided to enlist the support of Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky and the surrounding community. In five years, the company has met with nearly 3,000 neighbors, Hackman Capital said.

Among the groups supporting the project are the Holocaust Museum LA, Los Angeles Conservancy, the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, the Mid City West Neighborhood Council and FilmLA, Hackman Capital said.

The first proposal drew fire from neighboring Grove and Farmers Market businesses, who sent letters to residents in 2022 calling the Television City project “a large-scale speculative development that, if approved, would overwhelm, disrupt and transform forever the community.”

In July 2022, an executive representing Grove owner Rick Caruso appeared before a Mid City West Neighborhood Council committee and said the Television City project would create “complex” issues for the neighborhood, including traffic, parking and construction. Caruso himself said he was not opposed to the redevelopment of Television City.

The Beverly Fairfax Community Alliance, which was founded by Grove and Farmers Market, was more direct, warning that the expanded site would clog Fairfax Avenue, Beverly Boulevard, La Brea Avenue and 3rd Street with traffic.

The red awning of Television City seen from Beverly Boulevard.

Television City’s iconic red awning seen from Beverly Boulevard.

(Courtesy of Foster + Partners and Television City)

“Even those accustomed to living with the nightmares of Los Angeles traffic and parking will be shocked at how much worse it can be,” the group said on its website.

To address these concerns, Hackman Capital said the new plan would reduce the estimated number of daily car trips to Television City by 5,000 to 8,700. The owner also plans to move its “mobility hub” from The Grove Drive on the east side of Fairfax to 1st Street on the west side of the land. The mobility hub would serve public transit, rideshare and other passenger depots, as well as employee shuttles to the subway station under construction at Fairfax and Wilshire Boulevard.

“Our goal with Television City, particularly along the perimeter of our public boundaries, was to find a very good interface with the community. So it wasn’t just a studio with a white wall, but we were active and engaged,” said Brian Glodney, head of development at Hackman Capital.

Community members told Hackman Capital they wanted the streets outside the studio to have a sense of connection between Fairfax’s family-owned businesses, the Farmers Market, the Grove and Pan Pacific Park, Glodney said.

Landside businesses, such as stores and restaurants, will be limited to a total of 20,000 square feet, he said, “just enough to help activate the streets without competing with our neighbors.” .

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