CBS brass and Los Angeles Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa ceremonially broke ground Friday on the future Studio City home of KCBS and KCAL.
Three story building — along with a five-story parking garage — will be situated toward the back of CBS Studio Center, known informally as “the Radford lot.” Construction is expected to be completed sometime in 2006.
New structure will be built where the house for the Eye’s “Big Brother” reality skein (now relocated to “Yes, Dear’s” soundstage) formerly stood.
It’s also believed that CBS Entertainment will move its operations from Television City to the site — although the network still hasn’t officially confirmed the speculation (Daily Variety, April 16, 2004).
Not only were KCBS and KCAL staffers squeezed into the Columbia Square facilities in Hollywood after the two stations’ operations were merged, but the building is showing its age.
“We do feel like kids on Christmas morning,” KCBS anchor Laura Diaz said. “We’ve been rubbing shoulders at the duopoly.”
Once CBS’ grand West Coast radio headquarters, the building is now known for its dark hallways and dripping walls.
CBS honcho Leslie Moonves called the new home “tremendous,” and told station anchors and reporters in attendance that they’d finally have windows in their offices. CBS stations topper Fred Reynolds quipped that he’d make sure the new building had one section with a “dark, dreary, gun-metal look” for nostalgic staffers.
KCBS/KCAL vice president/general manager Don Corsini thanked staffers in attendance for “putting up with” the current deteriorating facilities. He also announced the new building’s newsroom would be named after the late anchor Jerry Dunphy, whose career included anchoring Channel 2’s “Big News” in the 1960s and helping launch KCAL’s three-hour primetime news.
New building reps the third home for KCBS and at least the third home for KCAL. Originally owned by General Tire’s Don Lee Broadcasting, Channel 2 launched at the Don Lee-Mutual Broadcasting studios (now home to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ film archives) on Vine in Hollywood.
General Tire eventually sold Channel 2 to CBS (which renamed it KNXT) and bought KHJ (now KCAL), Channel 9, which then also operated in the same building, although under different ownership.
KNXT and KHJ shared the building until the early 1960s, when Channel 2 moved to Columbia Square and KHJ relocated to Melrose, where RKO (which General Tire had bought) was based.
It was a coincidence of history that Channels 2 and 9 would eventually be housed under the same roof again, this time through common ownership.
Villaraigosa thanked CBS for keeping the stations in Los Angeles. “The city of Los Angeles hasn’t been the best place to do business, but we intend to make it a much better place,” he said.
Moonves attributed much of getting the building approved to CBS Studio Center prexy Mike Klausman and L.A. city council member Wendy Greuel, a former DreamWorks exec. “To have someone who gets what we do is why it went so smoothly,” he said.
The departure of KCBS and KCAL reps another end of a Hollywood era. The region was home to KABC, KCAL, KCBS, KCET, KCOP, KTLA, KTTV and KWHY until recently. Now, after the dust settles, just KTLA and KCET will remain.
CBS sold Columbia Square (which it built in 1938) to developer Ralph Horowitz in 2003 and has been leasing it since then; the building’s ultimate fate is unclear, although Horowitz reportedly wants to tear down the structure to build a new development.