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A Mediterranean-style hill town of sorts has sprung to life in an industrial area of Glendale. It’s actually Hollywood’s latest dream factory the $85 million DreamWorks Animation Studio. The five-building campus sits on more than a dozen acres along the Los Angeles River, near the Ventura and Golden State freeway interchange. Forget about the animation studios of yesteryear, where animators worked in crowded, fluorescent-lit, factory-like spaces. At DreamWorks SKG’s new digs, a manmade stream snakes through the color-coded, low-rise buildings, over rocks shaded by olive and oak trees, ending in a pond near an outdoor amphitheater. Other architectural features are also more in keeping with an Italian villa than a Hollywood studio, such as a mosaic-studded fountain in the middle of the central piazza and a campanile tower. The buildings are linked by covered arcades. Employees started moving into the computer hub building in December and have been moving into other buildings since then, said Angela Moreno, senior project manager with the Glendale Redevelopment Agency. Tenant improvements in the TV animation building should be completed by June, Moreno said. Studio officials declined comment on the new facility. According to knowledgeable sources, DreamWorks doesn’t want to showcase the campus until it is picture perfect (some finishing touches are still being made) and is hoping to tie in the public debut of the facility to the release of its first feature production, “The Prince of Egypt,” late this year. But according to Moreno, the 700 DreamWorks employees at the facility are already putting in long hours. A 150-seat theater for screening the studio’s work is one of the most heavily used rooms on the campus, busy 12 hours a day, she said. But, this being show business, DreamWorks has provided several amenities, including outdoor tables and seating areas, where employees can enjoy meals and cappuccino courtesy of their employer. “The environment is pleasant, private and comfortable,” Moreno said. That atmosphere also describes the offices, with windows that afford views of the landscape features and “critical rooms,” living room-like open areas where animators gather to discuss story boards and projects. The 320,000-square-foot campus was designed by Steven Ehrlich of Santa Monica, a city where more informal, nontraditional office space is the norm. “For this city, this is probably the project definitely of the decade, particularly in that area, which we’re trying to improve. This has broken the barrier and standard for any project in terms of design,” Moreno said. “They set the tone for an area of Glendale that’s mainly industrial.” The studio is a redevelopment project for the city, which agreed to fund about $3 million in indirect costs. DreamWorks will repay the agency over 31 years using a percentage increase in property values the studio generates. The property had been used as a storage yard for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and as a helicopter landing site for area police departments. DreamWorks can add 125,000 more square feet in the future and the space may be needed because of delays in a planned studio campus near Marina del Rey. Founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, DreamWorks had originally intended to locate its primary film studio in the Playa Vista development. Originally scheduled for groundbreaking in 1996, the development was stalled last year over financing problems. Then last fall, the project was purchased from a partnership led by Maguire Partners by an investment group. Talks had been on hold while the financing was worked out, but they resumed as soon as the owners took control, and DreamWorks and Playa Capital Co. have been in negotiations to hammer out a deal for the entertainment company to build its studio at the seaside site. The parties have “made a great deal of progress in the last three weeks,” but have not reached a price for the land, a source close to the negotiations said last week. With the Playa Vista site still years away from opening, DreamWorks also is operating out of space in Universal City (Spielberg’s former studio) and Chatsworth.

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