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UNIVERSAL CITY, CA-NBC Universal has unveiled a long-term plan for its 391-acre Universal Studios site that would add hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space, 2,900 housing units, 100,000 sf or more of new retail space, new production facilities and substantial other new development. Besides Universal Studios, the site is already home to the studio’s Universal Studios theme park and the Universal CityWalk mixed-use retail development.

Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios, says the new plan is designed to revitalize production facilities, possibly extend studio facilities to the adjacent Universal City Metropolitan Transit Authority station property, refresh its theme park and create a new residential neighborhood on a portion of the property. The plan is designed to “create a blueprint for Universal City for the next 25 years” that will enable Universal to remain the largest working studio in the world and remain one of Los Angeles’ top tourism destinations as well as one of the San Fernando Valley’s top employers.

Thomas Properties Group of Los Angeles and Rios Clementi Hale Studios served as advisers to NBC Universal on the blueprint, which Universal calls its “Vision Plan.” The plan will focus on three areas: the studio’s front and backlots, the entertainment portion of the site and a 124-acre portion called Universal Village that would include 2,900 housing units.

The studio front and backlot plan calls for 390,000 sf of production uses and 335,000 sf of new office space. It would revitalize the film and television production facilities with new and relocated outdoor sets, new post-production facilities, sound stages, producer bungalows, a screening theater, a rehearsal hall, a film vault and expanded prop/costume shop.

The 2,900 housing units in the Universal Village portion would include apartments, stacked lofts, town homes and condominiums and would be developed in three villages that would be connected by a pedestrian-oriented street, with 100,000 sf of retail and restaurant space and 35 acres of open space. The neighborhoods would be environmentally sensitive, transit-oriented and designed to meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards.

The entertainment portion of the plan calls for “refreshing” Universal CityWalk and Universal Studios Hollywood theme park with new attractions and enhanced retail and dining facilities totaling approximately 80,000 sf within the theme park. At CityWalk, the future plan could include upgrades to the movie theater complex, enhanced retail and dining facilities totaling approximately 35,000 sf and a 100,000-sf live production studio where guests become part of the action.

The proposal also includes possible construction of a new 3,000-seat enclosed entertainment venue and a 500-room hotel, expanded parking and circulation. The plan anticipates that the amphitheater on the site could be replaced in the future in connection with the proposed development.

In addition to these plans, Universal and Thomas Properties Group are initiating discussions with the MTA regarding a proposed new studio and office campus at the Universal City MTA Station. NBC Universal would become the major tenant in the new complex, which would be developed by Thomas to include 200,000 sf of production facilities, 450,000 sf of entertainment-related office space and a comprehensive parking plan.

Universal’s Vision Plan also includes a regional transportation plan “where transit is integrated into the very design of the project,” according to company officials. The elements under consideration for that plan include a shuttle system from Universal Village and throughout Universal City to the MTA Station, a “Great Street” through Universal Village connecting Forest Lawn Drive to Coral Drive, freeway and access improvements and a number of other projects designed to improve traffic flow and pedestrian flow.

Universal City lies partly in the City of Los Angeles and partly in Los Angeles County, so NBC Universal will file applications for its new plan with both the city and the county. Thomas Properties Group will file a separate application with the City for the Universal City MTA Station studio and office campus proposal.

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