Issue: Fall 2016

Columbia Square

Kilroy’s Columbia Square media campus helps lead Hollywood’s revitalization from the historic corner of Sunset and Gower.

You might have heard “Happy Days Are Here Again!” echoing through the hallways of the Columbia
Broadcast Studios in the ‘30’s and 40’s but the buildings have been silent for ten years. Those happy feelings are back again in a big way at the historic intersection of Sunset and Gower with the re-development of Columbia Square by the Kilroy Realty Corporation.

Designed to resemble a modern campus, the newly LEEDGold certified project valued at $850 million is the largest development project in Hollywood with 675,000 square feet of office, retail and living space on 4.7 acres. The new Columbia Square 7-building campus is already home to innovative companies from around the world with others set to move in by the end of the year.

What is essentially a media village introduces unique workspaces, collaborative indoor and outdoor environments, walkable shopping and a new standard of urban living. Open spaces with constructed tables and seating areas that feel conducive to doing business in a very open and relaxed atmosphere are everywhere. When walking between the buildings, structures provide inspiration with their modern but sweeping style. There is even an open amphi-theater located in the heart of the campus which can be used for tenant and events and casual music performances. Columbia Square delivers on the demand for a new class of creative office space in Hollywood where, as the brochure says, “walls of glass let in light and inspiration, and balconies and decks make getting outdoors a breeze. Each building has unique character, from a sound stage-inspired studio to state-of the-art, dual-core architecture. Inside, open floor plates encourage companies to customize their spaces with workstations, conference rooms, edit bays, lounges, kitchens... whatever helps the creativity flow.”

Accord-ing to Kilroy Executive VP David Simon, the
company wanted to incorporate a whole new level of “mixed use” design, combining commercial, retail and
residential space conducive to the live-work lifestyle. Kilroy management had a distinctly Southern California/Hollywood-centric point of view in reshaping the property. Although they received entitlements for additional high-rise additions, they gave back 200,000 square feet and opted to forego a possible New York high-rise feel. Instead,
with the removal of an adjunct studio building, they gained a much greater volume of open common space. The key to making it all work successfully though, was the addition of a 20-story residential
tower with 200 furnished and unfurnished suites ideal for short and long-term stays. The Residences at Columbia Square feature floor to ceiling glass and 360 degrees of visibility including the
ocean and Hollywood Sign.

Originally designed in the style of International Modernism by architect William Lescaze, a pioneer of modernism in American architecture, the Columbia Square complex was home to CBS’s Los Angeles radio and television operations from 1938 until 2007. Stars such as Jack Benny and Orson Welles recorded their best-known work in the various studios. In 1950, the pilot episode of I Love Lucy was
shot in Studio A. In the 1960s, Columbia Square’s live audience radio theaters were converted to recording studios where Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand and many other top stars recorded albums. Columbia Records dominated the airwaves in the 70’s and 80’s under the guidance of Clive Davis.

As with many developments in Hollywood and Los Angeles, the whole city block could have easily been demolished and another landmark with much historic value would have been lost. Luckily though, in 2009, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission and the City Council designated CBS Columbia Square Studios as a historic-cultural monument through the efforts of The
National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Los Angeles Conservancy.

A focal point and big nod to the property’s history is in the public artwork created by Dustin Yellin, known for his sculptural paintings which use multiple layers of glass. At first glance, the mysterious sculptures inside the 6 lifesized glass boxes look like human figures, but look more closely and you can see the “bodies” were constructed using bits and pieces of memorabilia found in the original Columbia recording and broadcast studios.

The 90% currently leased occupancy rate is spearheaded by NeueHouse, Viacom and Fender plus anchor tenant restaurants Paley and Sugarfish, which are both housed in the 25,000 square feet of retail space facing Sunset Boulevard.

The Viacom lease is the largest signed in Hollywood in the last decade, said Simon. The
deal seems to validate Kilroy’s strategy to turn the former CBS site into a live-work campus aimed
at attracting entertainment, media, advertising and tech workers. The multi-media conglomerate
is expected to have large graphics on the building that will be visible from long distances. According
to real estate broker Carl Muhlstein of JLL who represented Kilroy, “There hasn’t been a media tenant of this magnitude arriving in Hollywood since the Capitol Records tower” which was built in the mid-1950’s.

The decision by one of the giants in the entertainment industry to relocate and consolidate
some of its Cable television networks including MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Spike TV is a sign that Hollywood is reaching critical mass, said Muhlstein. David Simon added, “This is a
bell-weather event for both Columbia Square and the ongoing rebirth of Hollywood.”

According to Mr. Muhlstein, a new phenomenon is occurring where “Tenants are willing to travel across markets for the right space, which is very unusual in L.A.,” he said. “And (they) are paying attention to branding opportunitiesand what statement their real estate makes.”

Prior to Viacom, NeueHouse, a New York operator of avant-garde communal office space, agreed to lease 93,000 square feet in the original CBS office and studio complex. Their leased area includes a spectacular event space created in what was previously Studio A. The ramifications of this type of successful major development are not lost on the city’s leaders, as illustrated by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s statement: “Kilroy’s successful re-imagining of Columbia Square… is a sterling example of the surging investment happening in Hollywood and across L.A. Companies like Kilroy
and Viacom are right at home here in our city of dreamers and doers.”

For this writer, the promise of long-term success occurred in front of NeueHouse when I spotted a
group of casually-dressed folks walking with purpose across the campus and overheard, “That was a very productive meeting!”