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Tuesday, Feb 7, 2023

Developer Gives Update on NBC Universal Project

Women/LA put on a great program in February called Anatomy of a Mega-Deal. The deal examined was the proposed NBC Universal development in Universal City which in total involves multiple projects, including redevelopment of the studio’s 391-acre backlot and the construction of nearly 1.5 million square feet of office space, production facilities, retail, and even possibly hotel and apartments along Lankershim Boulevard. Thomas Properties Group representative Dennis Watsabaugh spoke about the current state of the project that they were hired to envision back in 2005 and have been working on ever since. A joint development agreement has been created between NBC Universal and the Metropolitan Transit Authority which owns most of the property along Lankershim that is currently the site of the Universal City Metro station, parking lot and bus turnaround. An environmental impact report has been completed and will be out for public comment in the next few months. Much has been written about the project, with much ink being given to a small but very vocal group of homeowners and other concerned citizens who are still skeptical about the project that would be located just off the 101 freeway in a very congested area that also includes the historic Campo de Cahugena site. Most questions about the project during the luncheon were about the traffic issue which Watsabaugh said will be mitigated in a multitude of ways. Those include constructing a new special-use ramp from the freeway, widening of the freeway and a variety of intersection enhancements in the area surrounding the project. Construction was planned to start on the first phase project, MetroStudio@Lanker shim, in late 2009 and, while he shied away from saying it absolutely wasn’t happening at that time, Watsabaugh made clear that it was “very likely” to be pushed back to an unknown timeframe. One funding source for the project is an investor pool called the Thomas High Performance Green Fund which is still open for those with large amounts of spare cash. The Green Fund is being used not only for this project which has a LEED Silver rating as its goal, but to acquire other LEED-certified and Energy Star-rated commercial properties. The second phase of the NBC Universal development was the subject of the 2008 NAIOP Southern California real estate challenge, which had multi-disciplinary teams of design and real estate students from USC and UCLA competing to come up with a highest-and-best-use proposal. At the CREW/LA luncheon, members of the UCLA team presented their winning concept which envisioned a hotel, apartments and retail on the site, a far different vision from Thomas Properties’ current plan for another high-rise office tower. Construction Outlook Less Sad In its recently-released California Construction Outlook, publisher McGraw-Hill reported that total contracting in California will continue to fall for the fourth consecutive years, but by less than in previous years. The report showed a drop of 4 percent versus the nearly 20 percent decline in 2008. The commercial sector, which includes office, retail and industrial, will be the hardest hit with a projected 14 percent decrease. Residential construction, including both single- and multi-family will continue its decline, but that sector is seen as stabilizing. Although public works projects are anticipated to benefit from federal stimulus packages, most of that money will likely be in road, bridge and other infrastructure work that is “shovel ready.” NAI Names Broker of the Year Encino-based NAI Capital announced Tim Foutz has been named 2008 Broker of the Year for the company. He was the organization’s top producing broker among all 15 Southern California offices. This is the fourth time Foutz has earned the designation. There were 38 other brokers who received Capital Club awards, NAI’s way of distinguishing the highest grossing brokers throughout the company. You’ve Got the Power CoStar is accepting nominations for their 2008 Power Broker awards which will be handed out in March. Their announcement said nominations must be in by Feb. 16, but if you’re not reading this until after that date, I’d encourage you to go ahead and send one in anyway nomination deadlines are often rather fluid these days. Stay Tuned My next column will focus on the renewed focus on commercial real estate firms’ distressed assets programs. I’ll have an interview with Scott Lamontagne, newly named western region director of Marcus & Millichap’s Special Assets Services division and talk with some other firms that are either reinvigorating or starting similar focus groups. Staff Reporter Linda Coburn can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or at lcoburn@sfvbj.com .

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