New residential developments lure buyers over the hill

For “The Tonight Show,” it was a punchline. For more than 30,000 media-related employees, it’s a company town. But for developers, Burbank will be the next Third Street Promenade.

Firms are betting billions that Burbank’s new urban infill developments will convince commuters to put down roots — and early returns show they’re right. The Olson Co. developed Burbank’s 140-unit Village Walk and the 33-unit San Fernando Walk projects; both sold out. Champion Development Group is building Phase II of the Burbank Entertainment Village, which will include 118 condos and more than 40,000 square feet of retail space.

New-and-improved shopping and dining bolsters the Burbank argument, but the biggest selling point is an element beyond anyone’s control.

“Traffic is getting worse,” says Jim O’Neil, executive VP with Crown Realty and Development. That company is developing a 276 units of mixed-use, for-sale urban housing on the site of the former Warner Bros. Studio Store headquarters.

O’Neil, like other developers, sees would-be buyers as entertainment industry employees who now live in Hollywood and West Los Angeles — but would live in the 818 in exchange for a hassle-free commute and proximity to a 24-hour neighborhood. Olson president David French says his buyers are treating the units as corporate apartments or as second homes, albeit ones to be used during the work week.

And the focus is on function more than fashion. Where Westside loft builders pile on roll-down garage doors and floor-to-ceiling windows, Burbank developers’ sales pitches stress “lifestyle” over high design. “Style and coolness is great, but we’re all using the same architects and the same finishes,” says French.

Similarly, while Media City Center was an eyesore prior to its (ongoing) $50 million reinvention as Burbank Town Center, its tenants are solid-but-stolid types like P.F. Chang’s and Urban Outfitters.

Burbank may never fetch the prices of say, 90210, but the new offerings aren’t meant solely for industry strivers. Champion’s Burbank Collection includes two top-floor penthouses offering 180-degree views of the Valley and priced at $1.5 million, with one already reserved by a senior studio exec.

And, unlike Santa Monica’s Promenade, downtown Burbank is still off the tourist radar. Says Champion president Robert Champion, “It still feels like a real neighborhood.”

photos/vlifeweekend/gohome_bc.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”The Burbank Collection”> San Fernando Walk
Buena Vista Mixed-Use Project
THE BURBANK COLLECTION SAN FERNANDO WALK BUENA VISTA MIXED-USE PROJECT
Location A full city block bordered by Magnolia Boulevard, San Fernando Boulevard, Orange Grove Avenue and First Street.
Developer Champion Development
What 118 Condominiums including 60 luxury lofts on top of 40,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The 30 floor plans range from studios to three bedrooms in 600 to 2,200 sq. ft. with high-end fixtures including stone countertops and stainless steel appliances.
Prices From $400,000 to $1.5 million.
Status Now under contruction, expected completion, spring 2008. Sales office opens next month.
Contact 818-558-3600 or theburbankcollection.com
Location 730 S. San Fernando Blvd.
Developer Olson Co.
What Thirty-three attached townhomes with two-bedroom plus loft and two bathrooms of approximately 1,350 sq. ft. with attached two-car garage.
Status Under construction and sold out.
Contact 818-559-6573 or theolsonco.com

Location 1935 Buena Vista Street
Developer Crown Realty & Development
What 276 units, including 25 affordable housing units, 43 townhomes and three live-work units, over 1,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail.
Prices From the high $400s
Status Approved, site prep underway, with construction anticipated next summer.
Contact 949-476-2200 or crowndev.com

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