: Location Is Key Factor for Burbank Businesses

By Steve Donley

One word perhaps best describes the state of business in Burbank today: Booming. Over the last several years, the city has experienced a significant amount of both commercial expansion and relocation activity. With approximately 34.7 million square feet of commercial and industrial space in 1990, Burbank has been adding one million square feet a year. What's more, city officials estimate that by 2010, Burbank will boast 54.6 million square feet of commercial and industrial space.

So what's the allure of this Southern California city? A big reason businesses are attracted to Burbank is its great location and cooperative city government. Among other things, its location offers a central geographic position, accessibility to transportation routes and facilities, and close proximity to the media industry.

Easy Access

Located at the east end of the San Fernando Valley, Burbank is easily accessible to other parts of Los Angeles County. Within a 10-mile radius of Burbank are downtown Los Angeles, Glendale, Pasadena, Van Nuys, Beverly Hills, and San Fernando. Getting to places outside the county is easy as well, thanks to the city's proximity to multiple transportation routes and facilities. Three freeways--SR 134, SR 170, and I-5--run through Burbank, and within its borders lies a regional commuter airport, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport. The airport provides quick-and-easy access for domestic business travelers while also offering local businesses the opportunity to conveniently house corporate aircraft. Additionally, the city is home to a Regional Intermodal Transportation Center (RITC). The RITC lies at the intersection of the Ventura County and Lancaster/Palmdale train lines, which gives commuters from as far away as Oxnard or Lancaster direct access to Burbank without switching trains.

Once commuters arrive in Burbank, they can board shuttles that take them directly to their workplaces in downtown Burbank, the Media District, or the Airport District. The RITC is also serviced by Metropolitan Transit Authority bus lines, the Glendale Beeline, Santa Clarita Transit, and Los Angeles Commuter Express.

Media Madness

Businesses looking for close proximity to the media industry find Burbank their top choice. The city is currently home to three major studios: Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., and NBC's West Coast Headquarters. All three studios have initiated master plans for expansion over the next 20 years, with Walt Disney planning for a total of 1.81 million square feet, Warner Bros. for 3.3 million square feet, and NBC for 1.9 million square feet.

In addition to these major studios, Burbank is also home to more than 700 media-related businesses that employ approximately 18,000 people. Media-related production operations include BET (Black Entertainment Television), Nickelodeon Animation Studios, DIC Animation, and Dick Clark Productions. Notable media-related post-production operations include Foto-Kem Industries and Four Media. With such a concentration of media-related businesses, it's no wonder Burbank is known as the media capital of the world.

City Incentives

Burbank's city government offers businesses a low-tax environment, responsive staff, and high level of city services/infrastructure. For instance, Burbank does not have a gross receipts tax, and its utility user's tax is at the same level or lower than surrounding cities. For businesses planning to expand, the city offers a one-stop permit counter, expedited approval process, and economic incentives. Code-compliant projects take 30 days or less for approval, and the city does not have an architectural review process. Furthermore, for non-code-compliant projects, businesses can count on personalized assistance from city staff to walk them through the approval process.

Similarly, firms that are relocating or expanding in Burbank are assigned an individual staff member to contact to resolve any city-related issues they may encounter when planning or constructing their facility. In some cases, the city will create an incentive package for businesses interested in rehabilitating an existing facility or for those offering a high employee count or high sales tax volume.

Take, for example, the recent relocation of Nickelodeon Animation. The company--which received a $221,000 low-interest loan from the city for the construction of its new facility--rehabilitated a former warehouse into a 70,000-square-foot animation studio and five-level parking structure. The new studio is a colorful, playful facility decorated with Nickelodeon's trademark green slime on its exterior and includes a nine-hole miniature golf course, an indoor basketball court, and a Gak Fountain that spouts green slime. The first television animation studio to open in the L.A. area in 35 years, Nickelodeon is home to the cartoon series Hey Arnold!, Angry Beavers, Oh Yeah!, Cartoons!, and CatDog.

A second example of a relocating company that received assistance from the city is Fry's Electronics, which in June 1996 opened a 90,000-square-foot discount computer and electronics store on a 10.5-acre site formally owned by Lockheed. To assist Fry's in rehabilitating the former Lockheed building, the city provided a $2 million loan, with provisions for forgiving the loan balance if certain sales tax goals were achieved. The new store has proven to be popular, and its success has exceeded initial expectations.

Utilities and Services

As a full-service city, Burbank offers all the infrastructure advantages of a big city, and at the same time, provides responsive and accountable city services. The city provides a number of services--from electricity and water to sewer and refuse services--to its businesses and residents. Maintaining its own utilities allows the city to provide quick and responsive service at low rates and also gives Burbank the ability to offer specialized services to its businesses. For example, Burbank's electric utility is installing a fiber-optic loop throughout the city to provide businesses access to high-speed communications. In another example, Burbank's library system maintains the Warner Research Collection, which provides access to specialized media-related research materials.

Businesses and residents alike can also count on well-maintained facilities and services. The city has just constructed a state-of-the-art Police/Fire Headquarters, and all of Burbank's fire stations have been rebuilt within the last five years. Additionally, the city's parks have undergone major capital improvements over the last five years, resulting in the expanding and upgrading of park facilities.

Economic Growth

The combination of location and city government has led to extensive growth within all sectors of the Burbank economy: commercial, retail, residential, and industrial. Businesses looking for additional commercial or retail space within the city will be able to find multiple sites throughout the city. Some examples include:

* M. David Paul's Media Studios North project, located on the north side of Burbank near the airport. Phase I includes 650,000 square feet of office/studio uses, and Phase II includes a 215,000-square-foot, five-story office complex.

* J. H. Snyder's Burbank Media Center project, located in the Media District. Its scope includes a 585,000-square-foot, six-story Mediterranean-style office complex.

* Vestar Development Company's Empire Center, centrally located within Burbank. Vestar's development will occur on 102 acres of former Lockheed land. The current scope of development includes 585,000 square feet of retail space, 400,000 square feet of office space, 30 acres for an automobile dealership, and a 6-acre transition area for hospitality/entertainment.

These are just examples of the larger projects occurring in Burbank. Many smaller-scale projects are creating additional commercial, retail, and industrial opportunities.

Not one sector appears to be slowing in growth. In the hospitality industry, for instance, Homestead Village will be constructing 119 extended-stay units in the Media District. Other large hotel chains have been looking into constructing 300-plus-room hotels with convention facilities in downtown Burbank. On the residential side, Cayman Development is constructing 130 single-family executive homes in Burbank's Verdugo Hills. These new homes will offer luxurious, large living spaces with fantastic views of the San Fernando Valley.

Still Growing Strong

With its strong growth in all sectors, Burbank provides a multitude of opportunities for businesses looking to relocate or expand. It offers a location that provides immediate accessibility to transportation facilities and infrastructure, and close proximity to the media industry. Its city government provides a low-tax environment, well-maintained infrastructure, and expedited approval on development projects--all of which create a strong and healthy environment for business.

[ital]Steve Donley is the administrative officer for the City of Burbank's Community Development Department.[ital]

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