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New media take old Hughes space

YouTube will set up a lab in Playa Vista to nurture video stars. A marketing agency also agrees to a lease.

February 24, 2012|By Roger Vincent and Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times

Move over, Spruce Goose. Here comes YouTube.

Internet video site YouTube and marketing agency Earthbound Media Group have agreed to be the first tenants at the Hercules Campus, an office park being created by Los Angeles developer Wayne Ratkovich from buildings in Playa Vista that were once the hub of aerospace giant Hughes Aircraft Co.

YouTube will take over a 41,000-square-foot warehouse and office. Earthbound Media will move its headquarters from Orange County to a 15,000-square-foot building where technicians assembled the cockpit for the legendary Hughes H-4 Hercules seaplane, commonly known as the Spruce Goose.

The former Hughes campus is already home to Raleigh Studios, which operates soundstages in the former hangar where the Spruce Goose was built. Paramount is filming parts of the next"Star Trek" movie there, Ratkovich said.

"The legacy of Howard Hughes really does influence people," Ratkovich said. "People love to rub shoulders with him."

YouTube and Earthbound plan to move in this year, Ratkovich said. Earthbound agreed to a 10-year lease, and YouTube is committed for 11 years. Ratkovich did not reveal financial terms of the deals but said he has been asking for nearly $3 per square foot per month.

"It truly is inspiring to be surrounded by a property with such great historical innovative significance," said Blaine Behringer, managing partner of Earthbound Media.

Purchased byGoogle Inc.in 2006 for $1.65 billion in stock, YouTube is trying to turn itself into a broadcaster of premium, original content.

YouTube said it would make the Playa Vista location an extension of its Next Lab facility in New York. The Lab, as it will be called, will focus on boosting the careers of YouTube's most popular content creators, offering them the chance to collaborate with industry experts and one another while using equipment provided by YouTube.

Once just a clearinghouse for amateur videos, YouTube in recent years began cultivating semiprofessional videographers, seeking to harness their grass-roots star power and helping them grow their audiences. Through its Partner Program, the San Bruno, Calif., company has invited more than 30,000 budding filmmakers to share in the revenue it collects from displaying ads alongside their videos.

Because videos produced by YouTube "partners" are generally higher quality and less likely to contain objectionable content, they also command higher advertising rates — seen as key to helping YouTube to reach its goal of becoming profitable. Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has not said whether the video giant is in the black.

Playa Vista is among the Westside locations now attracting businesses in creative fields such as electronic media, entertainment, technology and advertising, said real estate broker Jeff Pion of CBRE Group Inc.

"I think people want to be in an environment that stimulates creativity," Pion said.

Ratkovich, who expects to spend about $80 million buying, restoring and improving the old Hughes property, has renovated some of the region's best-known historic buildings, including the Oviatt and Fine Arts buildings and the Wiltern theater in Los Angeles and the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

He's still a bit surprised at the enthusiasm some show for time-worn properties like the once-neglected Hughes campus.

"It is just amazing," he said, "how companies prefer these industrial buildings to squeaky-clean, brand-new structures."

roger.vincent@latimes.com

alex.pham@latimes.com

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