One of Los Angeles' longtime developers is betting big on the revival of Hollywood as he launches work on a $138-million speculative office development near Santa Monica Boulevard.
After dusting off plans for an office complex first conceived before the 2008 recession brought development to a halt, Jerry Snyder has begun construction of his 959 Seward project, even though he has no tenants lined up.
Snyder, who has been in the real estate business since 1949, thinks demand is strong enough among businesses in creative fields such as entertainment to justify the risk of building a campus-style complex catering primarily to them in a part of Hollywood known as the Media District.
It includes parts of the area between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, from Vine Street west to La Brea Avenue, and it is home to a variety of theaters, entertainment companies, trendy restaurants and stores.
The project at Seward and Romaine streets envisions the environment of a movie studio or tech campus, with on-site restaurant, fitness center and screening room. There will also be outdoor recreation space that will include a volleyball court.
"We think that a lot of the showbiz folks and the gaming companies would like to have this kind of space," Snyder said.
There will be two glass-enclosed office buildings up to five stories tall in a design by architecture firm Ware Malcomb. The project is rising on a lot across Romaine Street from Hollywood Center Studios, which dates to 1919 and is one of the oldest movie studios in the world.
For much of the 1920s, the Harold Lloyd Corp. operated out of production offices on the lot. Lloyd was one of the biggest stars of the silent era, making more movies than Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Mogul Howard Hughes shot much of his 1930 war film "Hell's Angels" there.
The studio was home to many shows filmed during the early era of television and was once owned by director Francis Ford Coppola.
During the 1980s, however, the studio and many other Hollywood enterprises took a deep downward turn as much of the entertainment industry decamped for the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.
Hollywood began a comeback this century and has attracted billions of dollars of investment in housing, hotels, shops and entertainment. The neighborhood is enticing to a younger generation of entertainment professionals unperturbed by its seedy recent past, real estate expert Richard Green said.
"It was intimidating 30 years ago, like Times Square," said Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. "It's much nicer now. Hollywood is gentrifying very rapidly."
Its proximity to prosperous neighborhoods such as West Hollywood and Hancock Park adds to the neighborhood's appeal.
"You're close to the amenities generated by all that wealth," Green said. "It's easy to go from Hollywood to Pizzeria Mozza," a trendy restaurant in Hancock Park.
Offices at 959 Seward are set to open by early 2016, said real estate broker Patrick Church of Jones Lang LaSalle, who is trying to find tenants.
"We're not only going after entertainment users, but traditional office users as well," Church said. He thinks he can attract tenants to Hollywood from Burbank, the Westside and downtown.
"Hollywood is becoming more of a live-and-work place like downtown or the Westside," he said.
The project has competition from two other Hollywood developments in the works by Kilroy Realty Corp. Kilroy has about 1.2 million square feet under development in Hollywood including the mixed-use residential, office and retail complex called Columbia Square on the former site of CBS Los Angeles' television and radio operations at 6121 Sunset Blvd.
Kilroy also recently announced it would build a $285-million complex of offices, residences and shops on the Vine Street block just south of the ArcLight Cinema complex in Hollywood.
Snyder, who is planning another, albeit small, office development on Hollywood Boulevard, is undaunted by the competition. Many tenants in older buildings will want to upgrade their quarters in the years ahead, he predicted.
"The only new office buildings to be built in Hollywood are Kilroy's and ours," he said. "I think we'll do very well."