A drive down the San Fernando corridor reveals a dull industrial
area, where warehouses and automobile storage yards offer little
color or cheer. Trucks trudge through the neighborhood, beating up
streets and slowing traffic.
Like Mickey Mouse waving his magic wand in "Fantasia," the Walt
Disney Co. hopes to provide a little bit of magic to revive the area
around San Fernando Road.
The entertainment giant received design approval last week for the
first phase of its Grand Central Creative Campus -- GC3, for short --
which Disney and city officials believe will lead the San Fernando
Concrete gray will turn to lush green. Buildings with an
architectural style that can be described as little but ugly will be
replaced by an Art Deco motif designed to complement the KABC-TV
Channel 7 building.
"Right now, there's just sidewalks," said Phil Lanzafame, the
city's assistant director of development services. "There are no
trees, certainly not along Grand Central and Flower. You'll start to
see that permanent landscaping that is part of a comprehensive
landscape plan for the whole area."
Disney plans to build two 125,000-square-foot office buildings at
1101 and 1133 Flower St. on a 100-acre lot owned by the company.
Disney moved there in 1961, when Walt Disney handpicked the spot for
a creative workshop to design a Disney theme park. There, the artist
and his team conceived Disneyland. That team, now known as Walt
Disney Imagineering, is still based there, designing theme parks,
resorts and real estate developments, among other things.
"Our goal, over time, is to transform the property from its
current, more industrial nature into a true creative campus
environment," said David Gensemer, a director for Disney corporate
operations and real estate.
Gensemer said Disney officials believe the new buildings and
landscape will translate to a better work environment and more
productive employees. Disney expects to break ground in November and
have 700 to 900 employees working out of the offices by the end of
The city sees more far-reaching effects. City officials believe
that after Disney invests money in its property, other property
owners in the area will follow suit, beginning a transformation of
the entire San Fernando corridor.
"Other property owners will know that they can invest in their
property and get a return on their investment," Director of
Development Services Jeanne Armstrong said. "Some of the properties
are not well maintained, and people don't have incentive to put more
money into it because they don't know if they'll ever get money back
out on resale.
"With our San Fernando Road landscape project, it's going to be an
attractive area for real-estate investment and business locations."