DreamWorks SKG is scheduled to complete the first structure at its Glendale animation campus this month, under a revised development plan that eliminates a signature campanile-style tower and slightly increases the amount of office space.
And, with development of the studio’s Playa Vista campus still mired down, the studio has leased a 124,518-square-foot office/industrial facility in Chatsworth to house general offices, production and storage operations,
DreamWorks leased the building at 21350 Lassen St. for five years for an estimated $3.5 million to $4 million, according to San Fernando Valley real estate sources.
The new entertainment powerhouse co-founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen currently maintains its headquarters in the Universal City district, and houses operations at various locations in the Valley and other parts of the Los Angeles area.
Alterations in the architectural plans for the Glendale animation complex sparked speculation last month that the studio was planning to incorporate additional functions besides animation there.
The changes to the Glendale site include the elimination of a bell tower atop one building, the addition of 9,000 square feet of office space, the shifting of building positions, the exchange of olive trees for cypress and a new color scheme.
But DreamWorks officials say the changes are being driven by cost and design considerations and not an expanded role for the animation campus.
Groundbreaking on DreamWorks main studio in Playa Vista has been delayed nearly a year because of financing problems by Playa Vista’s lead developer, Maguire Thomas Partners.
Even so, there are no plans to put additional administrative or studio functions on the Glendale campus, said DreamWorks operations chief David Mannix.
“Most of the design changes have been for architectural reasons or cost factors,” Mannix said. “It’s still totally an animation campus. The rest of the company will hopefully move to Playa Vista, once those plans get done.”
The first structure at the Glendale complex, a parking garage, will be finished June 23, and the first office building is scheduled for completion Dec. 10. The entire first phase of the project, which includes five buildings encompassing 320,000 square feet of office space, is slated to be finished by April 1998.
No start date has been set for the second phase, which calls for two more buildings that would add a maximum of 175,000 additional square feet.
Despite the elimination of the bell tower to cut costs, Glendale Development Director Jeanne Armstrong said it remains a first-class project.
“If I showed you a picture of the original project that was approved by the city and then showed you a picture of the new project, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” she said.
Animation may be the most critical segment of DreamWorks, the fledgling entertainment studio created in 1994 by director Steven Spielberg, former Walt Disney Co. executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and music mogul David Geffen.
Katzenberg, who would probably be the chief executive officer of DreamWorks if the company had titles, helped build Disney’s animation division into a worldwide powerhouse and developed such hits as “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” while under his former employer.
DreamWorks is relying on a similar success record from its own animation division in order to support its other ventures. None of the productions from its television and feature animation divisions (now housed in Encino and Burbank, respectively) have yet appeared; in the works are two TV series that will appear in January 1998 and four animated feature films, the first of which, “Prince of Egypt,” is scheduled to debut in November 1998.
As for the Playa Vista project, intended to house the rest of DreamWorks (which includes divisions producing music, movies, TV shows and CD-ROMs currently located in Universal City, Brentwood and Beverly Hills), it came a step closer to becoming a reality last month.
Squabbles among developer Rob Maguire, DreamWorks, a banking group holding some $150 million in principal debt on the property and prospective financial partners have delayed for months what is being called the first major new studio in Los Angeles in more than 50 years.
But late last month, Morgan Stanley Group and Goldman Sachs & Co. bought 83 percent of the $150 million mortgage from Chase Manhattan Bank effectively seizing control of the property from the Maguire group if a settlement on his loan payments cannot be reached by mid-July.
DreamWorks officials are said to be anxious to work the property’s new owners to finally get the project off the ground.
The space being acquired in Chatsworth was formerly occupied by the Sanyo Fisher Co. consumer electronics group’s headquarters. Sanyo relocated about two months ago to another site within Chatsworth.
Matthew Miller and Jerry Porter of Brentwood-based Metrospace Corp. negotiated the five-year, approximately $3.7 million lease transaction on DreamWorks’ behalf, while Tim Foutz and Bill Napier of Encino’s Capital Commercial Real Estate represented the property owner, SBD Group.