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HOPE—Bob Hope’s Burbank Land Tagged as Museum, Offices

According to “The Guinness Book of World Records,” he is the entertainer with the longest running contract with a single network, and the most honored entertainer in history. In 1975, the U.S. Congress named him the country’s first “Honorary Veteran” for his work with U.S. armed forces here and abroad. Now, the family of the “Chairman of American Humor,” Bob Hope, who turns 98 Tuesday, plans to build a museum and entertainment complex in Burbank’s Media District to commemorate his legacy. The Bob Hope Foundation and Hope Enterprises, the Burbank-based organization in charge of Hope’s public relations and media ventures, is planning a 103,500-square-foot office complex, a 300-seat performing arts theater and a museum to be called “The Bob Hope Center.” Hope owns the property where the center is being proposed: two now-vacant lots at Alameda and Olive avenues and Lima Street. “This property, from the best of my history, has been in the family for a long time,” said Jeremy Ochsenbein, Burbank associate planner in charge of the project. “The intent was always to build some sort of project that would be some kind of a monument to Mr. Hope. So (the foundation) has been in and out with us over the last two years and finally came through this year with a design of what they want to accomplish.” According to Ward Grant, a spokesman for the foundation, Hope bought the property in two parcels, one in 1956, the other in 1981. Both parcels have been vacant since the 1980s. The developer and architect for the project, Maple Dell & McClelland Architects, LLP, wants to begin the first of two construction phases sometime next year. Phase one will involve construction of five floors of office space, a subterranean parking lot with about 300 spaces and possibly a restaurant. The second phase would be devoted to the performing arts center, a museum of comedy, which will house artifacts from Hope’s personal archives, and space for community and non-profit events. Bob Hope’s 60-odd-year career as an entertainer spans many genres: vaudeville, radio, Broadway, television and films the most popular of which were the “The Road To” movies he co-starred in with Bing Crosby. He also was heavily involved in organizing shows for military forces overseas, including performances featuring Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe during World War II. Although he is not directly involved in the Hope Center Project, his wife Dolores and daughter Linda run the foundation and are working closely with city officials to get the project off the ground. So far, the foundation has yet to determine how much the project will cost, Grant said. But it will be built with private funds from the foundation and other sources over the next 13 years. Comedy Walk of Fame “Basically, it’s going to be a museum and theater dedicated not just to comedy, but performers in general,” Ochsenbein said. “And it’s Mrs. Hope’s desire to have some sort of educational element to it.” The project also includes plans for a “Comedy Walk of Fame,” which would encircle the outside of the theatre and museum. Plans have already won unanimous approval by the Burbank City Council. The Hope project would join seven other Media District projects already in the works, including the Pinnacle, a 585,000-square-foot office tower planned for directly across the street from the Hope land being built by Santa Monica-based M. David Paul Development. Warner Brothers has already begun construction of its 1.8 million-square-foot studio and office campus alongside the Hope project. The Platt Media Center, also planned across the street from the Hope land, will have 564,880 square feet of office space, a 384-room hotel, a 73,252-square-foot health club, a church, day care center and health club. Providence St. Joseph’s Hospital has proposed a 72,040-square-foot medical office project. Also in the planning stages are a 101-room extended stay hotel and a 1.4 million-square-foot expansion of NBC Studios. That seems like a great deal of development for a 557-acre area with a residential neighborhood so close by. But Ochsenbein said the city enacted the Burbank Media District Specific plan in January of 1991 with the intention to protect nearby neighborhoods from high-density projects and keep development at reasonable levels. The plan established code requirements and density limits on projects. For example, the floor ratio for commercial space is 1.1, or, for every square foot of land, one square foot of office space can be developed. “Prior to the 1999 agreement, some of the ratios were much higher, and development projects did threaten nearby residential areas with some degree of possible over-development,” said Ochsenbein. “So this has really helped to offset density threats.” “This is carefully designed to be a low-impact structure, to enhance Burbank and pay tribute to Mr. Hope, and yet do it in a way as to not have to ask for too many variances from the city,” Grant said. “It will have more than enough parking, so they are very much in tune with the needs of the area and local concerns.” Ochsenbein said Hope Enterprises would likely be a tenant in the new office structure. “One of the reasons why they went this way was because they saw this as an opportunity to develop the land for themselves as much as for anybody else,” he said. Grant said, “At one time he was the largest single property owner in the state of California, so he had a knack for buying good pieces of land.”

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