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NBC Universal releases retooled plan to add housing development to back lot

The studio tries to address concerns of neighbors and critics that emerged after the proposal was announced three years ago.

October 02, 2009|Roger Vincent

NBC Universal on Thursday relaunched its proposal to add a large housing development to its famous back lot in the San Fernando Valley, trying to address concerns of neighbors and critics that emerged after the plan was announced three years ago.

As part of the planned $3 billion in improvements to the world's largest movie studio, Universal would build freeway ramps, add a north-south road and create an elaborate shuttle system in an effort to keep traffic flowing through one of the busiest corridors in Los Angeles County.

The refined development proposal that Universal now calls its "evolution plan" also has shifted the location of some of the planned 2,900 apartments and condominiums to create a more pedestrian-friendly community and to try to preserve the views from existing homes on a hilltop overlooking the lot.

"We have really spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to commingle with the neighborhood instead of intrude upon it," studio President Ron Meyer said.

Universal said it would spend $100 million on wide-ranging transportation upgrades. One of the new plan's goals is to keep traffic related to the studio's entertainment businesses off of Barham and Cahuenga boulevards, key arteries that surround the studio, said traffic consultant Patrick Gibson, who works for Universal.

Barham would, however, get left-turn lanes and another southbound lane. Forest Lawn Drive would also be widened. Universal would spend $10 million on plans to widen the 101 Freeway, but Caltrans would have to come up with millions in additional funds to perform the work.

The revised design is intended to make Universal's residential district more suitable for walking and biking, said Thomas Smith, the company's West Coast real estate executive. It would also have a shuttle system that would connect the residences and studio with the Metro Rail subway and Metrolink train stations.

The shuttles would travel to surrounding studios and areas of Hollywood and West Hollywood, serving workers, residents and tourists. Universal estimates that the project will create 31,000 jobs during construction and 12,000 full- and part-time jobs from operations when complete.

The city and county approval process will begin soon, Smith said.

Studio chief Meyer said he could not comment on how a potential acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast Corp. might affect the plan.

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roger.vincent@latimes.com

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