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Burbank OKs NBC expansion

The Burbank City Council on Tuesday night approved NBC’s 20-year, 1.6 million-square-foot master ex-pansion plan for its local studio facilities.

After the plan passed preliminary environmental impact criteria and received the OK from the city planning board Feb. 24, the board voted a unanimous 5-0 in favor of allowing the network’s expansion.

As part of its proposal, NBC sought to nearly triple space on its existing site by building six additional soundstages on its 44-acre Burbank lot — occupied by the network since 1952 — as well as four new 15-story office buildings and three new parking structures.

The entire project has been estimated to cost in the range of $200 million.

The primary concern of city planners had been the increased traffic the expansion might bring. An environmental impact report showed that the development would produce an additional 12,100 vehicle trips per day, compared with the present 6,300 trips.

But NBC has promised to contribute a share of the costs of building new on- and off-ramps from the Ventura (101) Freeway and the cost of upgrading Barham Boulevard. The expansion also calls for widening streets and intersec-tions, as well as upgrading additional intersections affected by the expansion.

This is the third major studio expansion plan for Burbank in as many years. Burbank tenants Warner Bros. and Disney are undergoing expansion projects on their lots.

While NBC requested a development agreement spanning 20 years, with the existing shortage of office and pro-duction space, the network’s needs require a more accelerated construction schedule. The environmental impact re-port estimated that the master plan could be completed by 2008.

During Phase I, originally scheduled for 1997-2000, NBC seeks to build all six soundstages, one office building and an adjacent parking structure. Two other office buildings and a parking structure could also be developed dur-ing the first phase, but NBC’s John E. O’Neill, VP of facilities and corporate sourcing, said this is contingent upon getting a “major media entity” as a co-occupant.

“We would hope to begin construction on the first office structure about a year from now, in second quarter of ’98,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the plan would be to occupy the first office building by 2000, then demolish the existing building to make way for the soundstages, which are expected to be completed by 2001.

The 20-year schedule allows the city to plan for utility and service needs on the basis of a known amount of devel-opment and allows the city to implement a comprehensive transportation improvement plan in conjunction with NBC’s growth.

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