Los Angeles Business Journal

NBCUniversal Abandons Residential Development at Studio

By Jacquelyn Ryan Monday, July 16, 2012

NBCUniversal is abandoning controversial plans to build thousands of residences on its Universal City backlot.

The company had planned to build 2,937 units as part of a larger $3 billion proposal to expand and update its 391-acre property where it has its movie studio, theme park attraction and CityWalk entertainment complex.

However, new plans released Monday as part of a final environmental impact report instead calls for adding more studio space, theme park attractions, hotels and other entertainment space.

Specifically, Universal plans to add 1.45 million square feet of movie production space, 327,000 square feet of attractions to Universal Studios, more shops and restaurants to CityWalk and two instead of one additional 500-room hotel.

The original proposal, which has been known as the “Evolution Plan,” was released in 2006 at the height of the housing boom – and while NBCUniversal was still owned by General Electric Co.

Since then, the housing market has collapsed, and NBCUniversal was sold to cable giant Comcast Corp., which some speculated would not be interested in pursuing a residential development outside its core business.

There was an indication earlier this year of Comcast’s possible rethinking of the project when NBCUniversal said it would no longer build a separate 1.5 million-square-foot production and office project at Lankershim Boulevard.

The $750 million development at a subway stop would have been built in partnership with Thomas Properties Group, a major downtown landlord. Universal would have taken space in the project.

NBC Universal issued a statement on its website Monday saying that housing development is not a primary business.

“This is the right time in the process to make this decision and it will enable us to concentrate and invest in our core businesses, television and film production, Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park and CityWalk,” the statement read.

Costs of the Evolution Plan have now been pared down to $1.6 billion with improvements still to be built out over 20 years as originally projected.