Symbols of Hollywood's revival may soon include a neon Tommy "Rugrat" rolling a ball atop a Sunset Boulevard office building.
The creators of "The Rugrats," who founded Emmy-winning animation group Klasky Csupo Inc., have purchased a shuttered Mercedes-Benz dealership and regional office near the famous intersection of Sunset and Vine.
The fast-growing company that also created the hit kids show "The Wild Thornberrys" will convert the sleek mid-1980s-vintage development into its headquarters. It will include offices upstairs and flexible studio operations on the ground floor, formerly occupied by the showroom and service bays. Terry Thoren, Klasky Csupo's president, said the purchase allows the company to consolidate employees now scattered in half a dozen facilities in and around Hollywood into a customized operation, which would allow plenty of room for growth.
"It will be nice for everyone to finally enjoy being with all the people we've recruited who never get to see each other," Thoren said. Employment could grow from the current 270 to perhaps 500 or more by mid-2000 within the company's future headquarters at 6353 Sunset Blvd.
"Hollywood is undergoing a great transformation, and we are excited to be right in the middle of it," Thoren added, stressing that the company has been part of Hollywood since the namesake principals founded the company in 1982.
An entity controlled by the company's founders--graphic designer Arlene Klasky and animator Gabor Csupo--purchased the 95,600-square-foot property from Mercedes' North American unit. Thoren declined to disclose the price paid, but county property records indicate that a $6.8-million loan from City National Bank helped finance the purchase of the property from Mercedes, which it closed more than a year ago while restructuring operations.
Once Klasky Csupo's staff consolidates into its new Nadel Architects-designed headquarters in June, they'll see several other signs of Tinseltown's revitalization. Those include the adjacent Hollywood Marketplace retail and entertainment development, renovation of the nearby Hollywood Cinerama Dome, redevelopment of the KTLA-TV studios, and the $385-million Hollywood & Highland retail-entertainment redevelopment.
Whether or not a moving neon Tommy graces the top of Klasky Csupo's new home--a concept Thoren called "exploratory at this point"--the Klasky Csupo brain trust intends to make "Rugrats" characters "visible for miles around," he said.
"There's really something amazing happening" around the Sunset-Vine hub in particular, said Hollywood office leasing broker Rob Langer of M+S Management Co., who has seen office rents jump sharply during the last year or two.
Brokers Brad Chelf and Rob Waller of CB Richard Ellis, who helped Klasky Csupo search for a consolidated home and negotiate the property purchase, called the deal a quintessential example of a creative business reusing an existing structure that wouldn't work for other tenants.
"Just a short while ago very few [tenants] would have considered Hollywood, but now they're really coming back," Chelf said, noting that only a few existing buildings within the entertainment industry's preferred locations could accommodate a tenant needing nearly 100,000 square feet.
He and Thoren also said that Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan's L.A. Business Team played a key role in helping find an appropriate property and expediting the sale and related permits.