City backs Disney plans

The City Council on Tuesday strongly endorsed a proposed 338,000-square-foot expansion to Walt Disney Co.’s creative campus.

The plans included drawings of a six-story office building walled largely in glass and neighbored by a carefully crafted landscaped area that included towering palm trees and a dense park-like area that would provide a shaded space for outdoor activities.

No city officials criticized the plan and all said they were impressed by the designs, which were prepared by renowned firms Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Arup and SWA Group, firms responsible for designing major university buildings, hospitals and the Olympic Water Cube in Beijing.

“It’s a beautiful project,” Councilwoman Laura Friedman, chairwoman of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency, said during a joint public hearing for the development. “It’s going to look terrific and certainly improve the area aesthetically.”

The new building, in which Disney expects to house 1,200 workers, will be coupled with the new landscaping developments, a water fountain and a six-story parking garage with an array of photovoltaic solar panels.

The office building will include a main six-story wing and a five-story wing with a basement.

Disney representatives said they expected to break ground in September.

“This project will not only enable the physical transformation of the San Fernando Road corridor, but will also provide fiscal benefits that will contribute to the vitality [of the area],” said Neil Jurgens, vice president of design and delivery for Disney.

In addition to the 1,200 new jobs for the creative campus, the Burbank-based media giant’s expansion would also generate about 200 construction jobs, Jurgens said.

The expansion is part of Disney’s 125-acre campus in northwest Glendale that currently includes the headquarters of KABC-TV and two 125,000-square-foot buildings completed on Flower Street in 2006.

It is the second phase in a project to redevelop an area around the city’s historic Grand Central Air Terminal. Disney plans to eventually develop up to 5.95 million square feet of offices and outdoor spaces in the area.

The city has already spent months overhauling the San Fernando corridor in anticipation of the expanded development, overseeing a largely state-funded $44-million project to build a bridge from the Ventura (134) Freeway Fairmont Avenue offramp to Flower Streets. Crews have also been modifying other roadways to better accommodate the influx of Disney employees.

The latest project will bring Disney’s total amount of developed space to 2.5 million square feet, leaving “quite a lot of opportunity” for more, Jurgens said.

Disney’s plans came with requests for zoning variances to allow for a height concession to accommodate for the possibility of solar panels on the parking garage, a change in the sloping requirement for the parking structure, and the ability to place larger and more signs than city restrictions allow.

Get in touch ZAIN SHAUK covers business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at

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