vestar/SFVMar3/bb/25 inches/mike1st/mark2nd BRAD BERTON Staff Reporter By the end of March, Burbank development officials expect to select a consultant to oversee the environmental review of a huge project slated for 103 vacant acres just east of Burbank Airport. But it’s not certain that they’ll have a project to review. The development, being envisioned to include a major media-oriented business campus along with retail stores, is expected to play a crucial role in launching the city’s envisioned Media District North business community. But work on the project’s environmental impact report can’t go forward until the developer, Phoenix-based Vestar Development Co., submits a detailed development proposal. Officials at Vestar did not return phone calls last week. Burbank Community Development Director Bob Tague and Special Assistant to the Director Jim O’Neill said the city expects to receive a “pretty well-defined” development proposal from Vestar by the end of the month. In December, Vestar had proposed developing about 800,000 square feet of retail space and 750,000 square feet of offices. But city officials have given a cool reception to Vestar’s original proposal for the property. City Manager Robert “Bud” Ovrom, Councilman Ted McConkey and others indicated they would prefer a project with substantially more emphasis on media-entertainment facilities. Tenants from that industry have filled Burbank’s existing Media District to capacity and need more room to grow. Not only would media-related tenants bring higher-wage jobs than retail stores, the city has already made substantial investments in creating a shopping district near the Vestar site. So a huge amount of additional space is not needed, city officials said. Ovrom said the city supports development of about 64 acres of business park facilities and 39 acres of retail including the 14 acres just south of the Metrolink track and west of Victory Place. Vestar is in discussions with prospective media-industry tenants “to see what the demand is for various uses” of the property, Tague said. “We’re hoping they’ll put a concept for the site together that would also meet the demands of the community,” he added. “We are desperately pinched for space in the Media District proper, so we see (the project site) as a golden opportunity to extend our media-related business” to the airport area, McConkey said last week. He said executives at the company “are reconsidering” the earlier plans and “coming around to our view.” The property for decades housed Lockheed Corp. aerospace research and manufacturing operations, and is currently undergoing a controversial “vapor extraction” toxic remediation program. It has been the subject of extensive litigation from parties affected by contaminants left behind by six decades of aircraft manufacturing. (see story, page 1) Burbank officials hope the property can be redeveloped to help replace some of the jobs the city lost when Lockheed relocated its operations to Palmdale and elsewhere. Several plans have been proposed for the site over the last few years including a “power” retail center Vestar had considered developing. Warner Bros. had looked at the site for a sports/entertainment arena; the former Price Club (now Price Costco) operation and the Wal-Mart chain had proposed shopping centers. Now the city is about to issue a request for proposals from consultants interested in helping compile an environmental impact report for the property. Meanwhile, a smaller but nevertheless substantial new Media District North project has just secured a key financial commitment. Union Labor Life Insurance Co. just provided $28.5 million in construction financing for Santa Monica-based M. David Paul Development LLC’s redevelopment of a 196,000-square-foot former Lockheed “Skunk Works” office building. That entire building, at 3100 Thornton Ave., has been preleased by Walt Disney Co.’s feature animation division. The property also includes a new 22,000-square-foot gym/restaurant building, an 11,000-square-foot screening theater and a 650-stall garage. Washington, D.C.-based ULLICO, which invests union pension fund capital into projects that create union jobs, is also a key member of the investment team negotiating to become the majority owner of the Playa Vista planned community near Marina del Rey. DreamWorks has identified Playa Vista as its preferred headquarters campus location. ULLICO Senior Vice President Mike Steed said the California Public Employees Retirement System is expected to “take out” about $18.9 million of the ULLICO construction financing through a permanent mortgage once the project is completed.