NBC Universal announced Wednesday that the film studio is considering redeveloping a large portion of its backlot into a mix of residences and shops.

NBC Universal has hired Thomas Properties Group Inc., an L.A.-based real estate investment trust, and Rios Clementi Hale Studios to assist the company with defining the project and ultimately getting entitlements from city and county authorities.

Jim Thomas, chief executive of Thomas Properties Group, said his firm has been hired as a consultant but that he hopes to be involved in any future project.

"Our involvement in any project would come at a later stage depending on what comes out of this process," Thomas said, "but obviously, should there be a development opportunity, it would be something we would be very interested in."

The announcement was included in a statement outlining the studio's desire to create a long-term vision for its 400-acre property, which includes Universal Studios, outdoor entertainment district CityWalk and theme park Universal Studios Hollywood.

The Business Journal first reported the studio's intentions to develop its backlot in January.

Universal Studios president Ron Meyer said in the announcement that the studio wants to create a "city within a city" on its property. The process will consider the needs of the studio, the theme park, the entertainment district and the office and hotel buildings.

Still, building residential, retail and production facilities on NBC Universal's backlot will likely be the most controversial aspect of the studio's proposal. A more detailed plan will be made public in four to six months.

In its announcement, the studio pledged to work with neighbors, elected officials and the larger community on a "Vision Plan" for Universal City that would guide development.

NBC Universal's announcement had been expected.

Last summer, the studio hired brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle to recruit developers for a 150-acre section of its backlot. Sources close to the process had said studio executives believed the site could support up to 1,000 condominiums and apartments.

In addition, the studio says it needs to expand its facilities to better accommodate its 6,000 workers and add production and sound studio space. Its current facilities are more than 90-percent occupied.

"It's very important that this business be able to meet its needs and thrive and prosper and employ all of these people," Thomas said. "The question is: What can you do with the land that makes sense for the business and the surrounding community?"

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