Independent television station KCET-TV will move next year from its longtime Sunset Boulevard home to a new building on Studio Row in Burbank.
KCET will create a new studio at the Pointe, a 14-story office tower completed in 2009 on an Alameda Avenue site that used to be part of the NBC campus. Station officials told employees Monday that KCET has agreed to the move.
The former public television station sold its historic Sunset Boulevard studio to the Church of Scientology in April. The church paid $42 million for the 4.5-acre property, according to real estate information provider DataQuick. According to a company history, KCET paid nearly $800,000 for the former movie lot in 1970.
Several prospective buyers had been looking at the property but couldn't compete with the Church of Scientology.
"The price was well above what others were willing to pay," said Jeff Worthe, who pursued the property on behalf of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where he is a trustee. Representatives of the church did not respond to requests for comment.
The Sunset facility in Los Feliz was too large and too outmoded for the station's future, KCET President Al Jerome said.
"We had a very valuable piece of real estate that we felt made a lot of sense to monetize, because it was not an operationally efficient place to do business today in the changing media landscape," Jerome said in an interview. "You've got employees spread around several buildings. The spatial configurations were not right. We just felt really that we wanted to get into a brand-new facility that has open architecture that allows for a more collaborative and collegial work environment."
KCET will downsize from about 105,000 square feet of studio and office space in Los Feliz to more than 55,000 square feet in the Burbank location, Jerome said. The new location will include two production studios and nearly all new equipment.
"We felt, in looking at this facility, that it really had everything we wanted," Jerome said.
KCET has been struggling to rebuild viewership after its January split with PBS. Although moving to the Pointe will not be cheap, Jerome said, he was confident the station had the resources to do it.
"It's something we can manage," he said. "We had a very favorable [studio sale] transaction. We are debt free for the first time since I've been here. We have been able to put some long-term reserves [away]. I think we are in very good shape."
KCET is expected to move early next year. The station has until late April to leave the Los Feliz studio, which it now rents from the church.
"It's sad that KCET left [PBS]; it's sad that they're leaving Los Angeles," said Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the KCET lot.
"I was hoping they'd find a spot in Hollywood."
The Pointe is owned and managed by Worthe Real Estate Group, Burbank's largest office landlord. Worthe acquired a portion of the NBC lot in 2006 and renamed it the Pointe. It acquired the rest of NBC's Burbank studios in 2008 and renamed the lot Burbank Studios. NBC remains there as a tenant.
Terms of KCET's lease were not disclosed, but real estate experts familiar with the Burbank market valued the 11-year deal at about $25 million.
KCET's new home will also be near Disney, ABC and NBCUniversal. DC Comics will move its headquarters to the Pointe in August.
"Burbank is the media center of L.A.," said Children's Hospital trustee Worthe, co-owner of Worthe Real Estate Group. "It's established as a place for creative people to go because they do business with each other."