Save up to 90% on a Hartford Courant subscription. Click here to sign up now!
CT Now

Communal office space firm rents CBS building in Hollywood

A historic CBS radio facility in Hollywood will soon be used by creative business start-ups

The historic CBS broadcasting facility in Hollywood where George Burns and Gracie Allen once did shtick on the radio will soon be repopulated with entrepreneurs starting new creative businesses.

Developers of a $390-million residential, office and retail complex under construction on Sunset Boulevard called Columbia Square have agreed to rent the existing former CBS building on the site to NeueHouse, a New York operator of avant garde communal office space.

NeueHouse, as conceived by New York venture capitalists Joshua Abram and Alan Murray, intends to take the incubator-office concept a step further by designing an environment where strangers can work independently or come together serendipitously.

Abram and Murray, veteran tech entrepreneurs, envision creating a series of spaces and amenities that cater to individual entrepreneurs and teams of as many as 20 people in the creative arts such as film, design, publishing, the performing arts and technology.

Columbia Square: In the July 31 Business section, an article about communal office space provider NeueHouse agreeing to lease Columbia Square, the historic CBS broadcast facility in Hollywood, said that NeueHouse's New York office is across the street from the Park Avenue Armory. It is on East 25th Street, across the street from the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue. 

"What we are doing is fairly radical," Abram said. "We are trying to truly reinvent how talented people in global creative industries work together."

The first NeueHouse opened last year in a century-old building across the street from the Park Avenue Armory in New York's Upper East Side. The industrial-chic interior was designed by architect David Rockwell, who is now working on a plan for the old CBS property.

Rockwell is kicking around design possibilities with noted Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry, the designer of Walt Disney Concert Hall, Abram said.

"David has been collaborating on some ideas with Gehry's office," Abram said.

The name NeueHouse is a joining of the German word for new and house and is pronounced "noy-house." Those who want to use the space become members, similar to joining a health club.

Among the charter members of the New York NeueHouse were English music producer Chris Blackwell of Island Records and Jefferson Hack, founder of the British fashion and culture magazine Dazed & Confused.

"About 40% of our members in New York have EU [European Union] passports," Abram said. "You hear Italian, French and Swedish."

And in a break from the typically guy-centric culture of start-ups, half of the companies at NeueHouse in L.A. must be led by women.

An even mix of the sexes should help the founders with their goal of re-creating a modern-day art/literary salon with twice-weekly events for members and guests. Recent programs in New York were led by environmental artist Christo and English fashion designer Paul Smith.

"They are always non-business-related and always of interest to our members," Abram said.

The events tend to attract more people than the New York outpost can handle, he said, which is one reason the Los Angeles branch will be in Columbia Square.

The CBS building completed in 1938 includes the famed 25,000-square-foot Columbia Playhouse, from which radio comedies featuring Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Edgar Bergen and Red Skelton were broadcast in front of a live audience.

Work is underway to prepare the space for NeueHouse events. They are to be "food for the curious," Abram said, "and help people with their own creative processes."

The lease agreement includes NeueHouse renting all 93,000 square feet of the old CBS outpost for 15 years from Kilroy Realty Corp., which is redeveloping the property at Sunset and Gower Street. It is the largest lease in Hollywood in more than five years, according to Kilroy. CBS moved out of the building in 2007.

"Columbia Square brought together under one roof the great minds in the golden age of radio to produce some of the most memorable shows in entertainment history," said David Simon, executive vice president of Kilroy Realty. "As a result of our alliance with NeueHouse, that kind of creativity and collaboration will once again pulse through one of the most important buildings in Hollywood.

NeueHouse members will have access to fully equipped recording studios, postproduction and broadcast facilities, conference rooms, a screening room, and private dining rooms with in-house food service.

Los Angeles rates haven't been set, but membership in New York starts at $600 to $800 a month for people who have no assigned seats or offices.

NeueHouse members will also have access to some units at the Residences at Columbia Square, a 20-story luxury tower of high-end long-term and extended-stay rentals set to open in 2016. The tower is the centerpiece of the new Columbia Square that Kilroy is developing.

Also part of the complex will be two five-story office buildings. New shops and restaurants are slated along Sunset Boulevard.

Columbia Square is one of several large mixed-use projects planned or underway in Hollywood, which is benefiting from its comeback as a residential neighborhood and the rising popularity with the entertainment industry of nearby neighborhoods such as Los Feliz and Silver Lake, real estate broker Carl Muhlstein of JLL said.

"There is so much going on in the area," said Muhlstein, who represented Kilroy in the NeueHouse lease. "It's quite the nexus of media, new-media and the music industry."

Twitter: @rogervincent

Copyright © 2015, CT Now