2ND UPDATE, 3:01PM: No word on when work on the expansion will begin. Some minor hurdles for the expansion still remain, but the Supervisors’ approval was the big one. They approved two versions of the expansion today: One would allow Disney-ABC to erect about 556,000 square feet of buildings, including a dozen soundstages, and the other would be 510,000 square feet with eight soundstages. Disney has yet to announce which way it will go. The larger expansion always has been the leading project, but the company is holding on to the smaller option in case circumstances change in the future. “We are grateful for the tremendous community support for the Disney-ABC Studios at the Ranch project, Richard Ballering, VP Production Operations at ABC, said in a statement. “While the approval by the County of Los Angeles is a critical milestone, we still have a number of approvals to secure from other agencies.”
UPDATED, 2:39PM: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today voted unanimously to approve the expansion.
PREVIOUS: Disney is one political hurdle away from a major expansion of its Golden Oak movie ranch north of Los Angeles. After a public hearing Wednesday, the LA County Department of Regional Planning unanimously approved the company’s proposal involving a 58-acre site in an unincorporated area near the 14 Freeway adjacent to Santa Clarita. READ MORE »
The unanimous vote by the LA County Board of Supervisors today ends a seven-year public hearing and environmental approval process that clears the way to begin construction on NBCUniversal‘s 25-year Evolution Plan. Starting in late summer, work will begin on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed land at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, as well as on new and upgraded TV production facilities, office space and infrastructure on the Universal Studios lot. The Potter attraction was first announced in 2011 and already has seen success in Universal’s Orlando theme park, which Universal President and COO Ron Meyer has called a game-changer. A Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios Japan was announced last year. Originally, the broader Evolution Plan to build 3,000 apartments and condos and retail space on the studio back lot were scrapped in July, after Yaroslovsky and LA City Council member Tom LaBonge red-flagged the potential environmental impact and potential loss of production jobs. (Universal Studios sits on both LA city and county land; the LA City Council approved the city’s portion of the plan in February.)
In total, the plan is expected to create more than 30,000 jobs and generate $2 billion in economic activity, according to NBCU. County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the newly forged agreement calls for NBCU to make $100 million in transit improvements, and commit nearly $14 million to jump-start the effort to revitalize the Los Angeles River by “completing key missing links on the LA River bike path”. That includes building a nearly one-acre trailhead park on the studio’s property abutting the river. Here’s NBCU’s release on the deal:
UNIVERSAL CITY, California, April 23, 2013 – NBCUniversal announced today plans to begin construction of the first projects of its 25-year Evolution Plan. The Evolution Plan represents a $1.6 billion investment in tourism and production. This long-term investment in two industries that are vital to Los Angeles will create more than 30,000 jobs and generate $2 billion of economic activity during operations for the region.
“After nearly a decade of work on the Evolution Plan, today’s vote sets the stage for our next 100 years in Los Angeles,” said Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios. “We are thankful for the support and leadership we have received from both the County and City of Los Angeles and are ready to get started investing in these important tourism and production projects in the next few months.”
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