Walt Disney Co.'s planned Grand Central Creative Campus in Glendale will eventually employ 10,000 workers and include 3.6 million square feet of offices, sound stages and studio production facilities, according to interviews and documents filed with the city of Glendale.
In announcing the development in September, Walt Disney Imagineering executives declined to disclose the project size, the number of employees or the dollar value. But in meetings with business groups, service clubs and neighborhood associations, company officials have placed the project cost at $2 billion, making it one of the largest commercial developments in the state.
The company said the project will be anchored by the firm’s Imagineering division, which designs Disney’s theme parks.
Doug Moreland, vice president of development for Imagineering, said the project would double employment at the 125-acre site to 10,000 workers.
The project borders the DreamWorks SKG animation campus, near the intersection of the Golden State and Ventura freeways. It is in Glendale’s 750-acre San Fernando Redevelopment Corridor, created to attract media, technology and entertainment companies.
Business leaders are lining up behind the project.
“These aren’t jobs flipping hamburgers, these are top-quality, high-income jobs,” said David Fleming, chairman of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. “This is one of the largest redevelopment projects in the entire state.”
Walt Disney Imagineering began as a small band of animators, set designers, writers and engineers handpicked by Walt Disney in the early 1950s. The Imagineers transformed celluloid fantasy into three dimensions--and in so doing invented the modern theme park, Disneyland.
After Disneyland, the division has grown steadily--supplying Disney’s theme parks around the world with an ever-changing array of attractions. The group attends to every detail in Disney theme parks, from the monorails gliding overhead to the eye-patches on swashbucklers in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Imagineers are designing theme parks that will open in 2001, including Tokyo DisneySea in Japan and Disney’s California Adventure at the Disneyland resort in Orange County.
Today, Imagineering is scattered among dozens of older, unmarked office buildings in Glendale’s Grand Central Business Park. Disney’s plan calls for demolishing most of the buildings and creating a new office campus for WDI--plus room for TV and motion picture production and new media technology.
The reluctance of Disney officials to give precise information about the project is no surprise, said chief economist Jack Kyser of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
“Disney has always been very cautious with providing information,” Kyser said. “When you’re dealing with something like this you don’t want to attract a lot of phone calls by people anticipating what you want to do and trying to sell you goods or services. Politics can also impact a project like this--something Disney also wants to avoid.”
The size of the project is starting to unnerve residents who live between the Disney property and the Golden State Freeway.
“I’m worried they’ll sugarcoat things and tell us what we want to hear in the planning phase,” said 34-year-old John Pera, who has lives in the same house where he was born.
“When they get the go ahead, will they still work with us?,” Pera said. “If we have complaints, will they still listen?”
Moreland said Disney officials are meeting with residents to address their concerns.
Disney is due to release its draft environmental report in May or June, followed by at least 45 days of public comment, said Jeanne Armstrong, Glendale’s director of development services. The report will probably reach the Glendale Redevelopment Agency in the fall.
Glendale Homeowners Coordinating Council President Rich Ramirez says Disney will have to assure residents that it will deal with traffic congestion created by the project. Others said they may want Disney to set aside land for parks.
Mayor Ginger Bremberg said the project should not be seen as a chance to shake down the developer.
“Disney owns the property and has gone to extraordinary lengths to create a fine development that will be a great asset to the city,” she said.