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Bringing magic to San Fernando

May 12, 2004

Josh Kleinbaum

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

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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

redevelopment effort.

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

2006.

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."

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