Thursday, October 01, 2015

Nickelodeon's West Coast 'Hub' Takes Shape In Burbank, California

Earlier this year, the Nickelodeon Animation Studio broke ground on a new 110,000-square-foot expansion project on Olive Avenue, a project that's expected to create the West Coast "hub" for the network's animation and live-action production teams.

The project's steel skeleton is taking shape on the corner of Olive and Lake Street. Late last month, Brian Foote, senior planner for the city, told the Burbank Planning Board "They're moving along quite quickly." Foote also noted that much of the building is being fabricated off-site and pieced together on location.

Nickelodeon began construction of a new studio on the corner of Lake Street and Olive Avenue that will expand its footprint from 72,000 square feet into 190,000 square feet and will make the Burbank location the kids' cable network's West Coast hub. Photographed on Monday, September 21, 2015. (Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer / September 29, 2015)

"It's fairly impressive," Foote added, in reference to the scale of the structure, which is more than 70 feet tall.

The state-of-the-art, five-story glass structure will expand the studio complex from its existing 72,000 square feet to 190,000 square feet when it opens in late 2016, a company spokesman said.

That opening will coincide with Nickelodeon Animation's 25th anniversary, said Russell Hicks, president of content development and production for Nickelodeon Group. The networks three original animated series, "Rugrats", "Doug" and "Ren & Stimpy" premiered on Sunday 11th August 1991 - and one of the goals for the new facility is to draw upon that history.

"It's kind of like the 25 years leads up to the opening," Hicks said.

While the building may seem to be going up quickly for some people, Hicks said, "construction doesn't go fast enough for me."

The building is being constructed next to the location where Nickelodeon has been since 1998. When the expansion project was approved in March 2014, Planning Board members said the studio has been a good neighbor throughout the years.

Hicks said Nickelodeon's home base is Burbank, adding that the area is full of talented people. However, while the building was the right size for the studio in the 1990s, its "10-fold" growth since has left employees spread throughout L.A., including locations in Glendale and Santa Monica.

The new building will allow the company to bring all of its creative personnel back under one roof, Hicks said, and because it will house both animation and live-action teams, it will be known as simply Nickelodeon Studios.

Katelyn Balach, a studio spokeswoman, said almost 700 employees work at the Burbank location now. That will increase to more than 800 once the expansion is complete, "with room to grow." A new five-story parking structure with 450 parking spaces will accommodate the additional workers.

When completed, the exterior of the building will feature clear glass vertical "fins." However, Hicks said some of the key features are not about the architecture, but the artists it will house.

Not only will an expanded courtyard join the new and existing buildings, it will feature iconic artwork from shows that the younger employees who grew up watching Nickelodeon love, he said.

Creative spaces on each floor will be stocked with arts-and-crafts materials to allow the artists to express themselves in any medium they want, while a music room and game room will also allow them other outlets. There will also be an 88-seat theater for showing their work. An app will connect employees and provide an overview of events and daily activities.

The new campus will be open to more public tours, Hicks said, as well as more industry events, such as lectures and open houses. Its features will "tell the story" of Nickelodeon's history, he said.

"It'll be mostly celebrating the artists," he added.

Having those creative workers all in one space will hopefully lead to introductions and collaborations that can't happen with teams dispersed as they are now, Hicks said, fulfilling "the vision of being a creative engine and powerhouse."

Original source: Burbank Leader.
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