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The Los Angeles City Council gave its blessing to a $750 million movie studio and commercial complex in North Hollywood despite concerns about the developer’s ability to pull off later phases of the project. By unanimous vote last week, the council ordered the Community Redevelopment Agency to hammer out a development agreement with J. Allen Radford and his group, JARCO/SLG & G; LLC. “This is really a major step forward in revitalizing North Hollywood as the major entertainment center that we have envisioned for so many years,” said Councilman Joel Wachs, who represents the area. Radford said the vote signifies the council’s faith in his vision for North Hollywood, and he predicted speedy final approval. “I’d say it’s gold-plated,” he said. “It’s 100 percent.” Radford hopes to begin development of phase one in the first quarter of 2000. It would consist of 433,000 square feet of sound stages and pre- and post-production office space on 16 acres along Chandler Boulevard, between Lankershim Boulevard and Vineland Avenue. The site is adjacent to a planned Red Line station set to open next year. The second phase calls for another 800,000 square feet of office space, 130,000 square feet of specialty retail, an amphitheater and public parking. The final phase would consist of 250,000 square feet of office space. But the future of those two phases remains in doubt. A financial analysis commissioned by the CRA and prepared by Keyser Marston Associates Inc. concluded that Radford’s group and a competing developer could pull off the first phase of the development. (The consultant also noted that Radford’s group was the best choice because the developer has 20 percent of the project site under contract.) But the study also concluded that neither developer was able to prove it has the financial capability to complete the last two phases. As a result, Ron Deaton, the council’s chief legislative analyst, and Paul Cauley, acting city administrative officer, recommended the selection of Radford’s group with some stipulations. To protect the city, Deaton and Cauley recommended that JARCO be required to meet as yet unspecified financing and leasing requirements before the second and third phases could begin. If JARCO can’t comply, the city could seek other developers for the project. Mildred Weller, a North Hollywood activist, said she heard the same promises the last time the CRA brought a major project to the area in 1991. Although the CRA succeeded in accommodating the Academy Business and Entertainment Complex, plans died for a four-star hotel, restaurant with banquet facilities, and vastly more retail and office space. CRA officials maintain the recession hurt the Academy project not anything the CRA did or didn’t do. Radford is confident about the project, even though it comes at a time when entertainment-industry growth is slowing. In Glendale, PacTen Partners is having trouble as it tries to lease its new 530,000-square-foot office tower. The building is 30 percent leased despite a yearlong marketing effort. Meanwhile, Maguire Partners has put on hold a 750,000-square-foot office complex in Glendale’s central business district after the developer was unable to pre-lease any of the project. Radford said his company has been watching the market in Glendale and Burbank and will adjust tenant make-up if necessary. He said the market appears to be more conducive to campus-type office buildings like the ones he has planned. “We feel with Metro Red Line opening in May of next year and allowing the project to be connected by to rest of county, it will give us a profound leg up in being a regional developer as opposed to an East Valley developer,” he said. The council’s May 12 action gives Radford and the CRA staff six months to work out a development agreement. But Radford anticipates that an agreement can be reached more quickly. The deal must return to the council for a final vote before the planning process begin

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