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UNIVERSAL CITY, CA-NBC Universal plans to develop a news center and TV studio here that will aim for a LEED Silver certification for its design, construction and ongoing operations. The new facility at the Universal City site will be modeled after the new NBC News World Headquarters that is scheduled to open later this month at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City and will be part of a larger development at NBC Universal’s 391-acre holdings here.

The news center is part of a larger overall West Coast strategic plan, part of which was reported on GlobeSt.com late last year, 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 at the Universal City site. Besides Universal Studios, the 391 acres are already home to the studio’s Universal Studios theme park and the Universal CityWalk mixed-use retail development.

As part of the overall long-range plan to centralize its operations in Universal City, NBC Universal says it expects to sell a major portion of its 34-acre studio lot in the Burbank Media District. The sale of a portion of the Burbank studio lot, “will likely involve the retention of portions of the Burbank property, and the leaseback of certain facilities, providing NBC Universal with the option to keep some productions on the Burbank lot for several years,” the company says.

In addition to relocation its news facility to Universal City, NBC Universal has plans under way to renovate and expand its Stage One on the Universal lot, where a live audience theater will be the new home of “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” in 2009. The relocation of the Tonight Show production facilities will end a chapter in broadcasting history that dates back to the era of the late talk show host Johnny Carson, who coined the phrase “beautiful Downtown Burbank” to describe the show’s location.

The operations that NBC Universal plans to move to the new Universal City news and production facility are NBC News’ Los Angeles bureau, KNBC, KVEA and the “Access Hollywood” TV show. Pending approvals, the company expects to begin moving those operations to the new Universal City facilities by 2011.

Tom Smith, SVP of West Coast Real Estate for NBC Universal, notes that the new facility that will house the NBC news operations is being designed as the anchor tenant of the proposed Thomas Properties Group development at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Red Line Subway Station in Universal City. As reported on GlobeSt.com in December, the plan is designed to “create a blueprint for Universal City for the next 25 years” that will add studio facilities, refresh its theme park and create a new residential neighborhood on a portion of the property.

The proposed Thomas Properties Group development at the Red Line Subway Station is located directly across the street from Universal Studios, Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and the CityWalk retail development. Smith says that the decision to consolidate operations at the Universal City site is based on “strategic and synergistic opportunities in bringing our production facilities and talent together” at the site.

Among the reasons behind the move is the Universal City MTA Red Line Subway Station’s location, which was a key deciding factor in the company’s decision to move the NBC Universal facility to Los Angeles. Locating the new facility to a site near an existing subway and bus station will allow visitors, guests and employees to take public transit and “significantly reduce their car-related commuting emissions and stress,” NBC Universal says.

The new project is in the environmental review process and is slated for public hearings in 2008. Thomas Properties and Rios Clementi Hale Studios serve as advisers to NBC Universal on the blueprint, which Universal calls its “Vision Plan.”

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