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Warner Bros. Breaks Ground On Frank Gehry-Designed “Iceberg” Office Towers

California Governor Gavin Newson joined architect Frank Gehry, Warner Bros. Chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff, developer Jeff Worthe and Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer at the official groundbreaking of the Second Century Project, a Warner Bros. Studios expansion featuring two Gehry-designed office towers known as the “icebergs,” on Tuesday, January 14.

“These incredible new buildings will combine state-of-the-art technology with a dynamic work environment and allow us to reimagine not only our workspace but our future,” said Sarnoff. “Along with our historic lot, this newly expanded campus will fuel increased creativity, facilitate collaboration and help us attract and retain the world’s best and most diverse talent.”

(from left to right) Burbank City Councilmember Emily Gabel-Luddy, Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer, architect Frank Gehry, Warner Bros. Chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff, developer Jeff Worthe, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Burbank City Councilmember Bob Frutos, Burbank City Councilmember Jess Talamantes and Burbank City Councilmember Tim Murphy celebrate the groundbreaking on Warner Bros. Second Century Project. (Photo By Ross Benson)

“This is an investment in our employees, our creative and business partners and the Burbank community,” Sarnoff added.

“This is a project that shows confidence in our future,” commented Newsom, speaking to the positive economic impact of the project. “This is a big deal, not just for Burbank or the region, but for the entire state.”

Announced in April 2019, the Second Century Project, as the expansion is called, alludes to the beginning of Warner Bros. second century in business. The expansion is due to be completed in 2023, to coincide with the year of Warner Bros.’ centennial celebration.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

“Warner Bros. is a legendary company and we needed to create a legendary building for them,” commented Gehry.

The two new office buildings are designed to look like icebergs floating along the 134 Freeway, as Gehry described during the April 2019 project announcement. The office complex will feature two towers, one at seven stories and 355,00o square feet of office space and the other at nine stories and 455,000 square feet of office space and be LEED Certified.

“In the Media Capital of the World, Warner Bros.’ commitment to this project is also a commitment to Burbank, reinforcing our relationship that goes back more than 90 years,” said Springer. “The creativity of Mr. Gehry’s architecture along with Warner Bros. desire to build something genuinely unique and Mr. Worthe’s commitment to construct it, further proves that yes, Burbank is a World Class City.”

(Photo By Ross Benson)

The full Burbank City Council, including Bob Frutos, Jess Talamantes, Emily Gabel-Luddy and Tim Murphy, were also on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony.

“We’re creating something pretty unique and pretty special,” added Worthe. “Almost 4000 Warner Bros. employees [will] work here. We’re trying to do something to make their lives better.”

With the groundbreaking now official, the construction of the Second Century project takes place in two phases. Occupancy of Phase I is expected in 2022 and Phase II occupancy will coincide with Warner Bros.’ centennial celebration in 2023.

Warner Bros. Burbank Expansion Includes Frank Gehry-Designed Buildings

Warner Bros. Entertainment plans to expand the Burbank footprint of the global entertainment company with two office buildings designed by Frank Gehry to be built between the Warner Bros. main lot and the 134 Freeway in the Burbank Media District. The studio also announced the purchase of a portion of The Burbank Studios on Alameda Avenue, the former site of NBC and The Tonight Show.

“This is an opportunity to re-imagine not only our workspace but our future,” said Kim Williams, Executive Vice President and CFO of Warner Bros. Entertainment. “Along with our historic lot, the newly expanded campus will fuel increased creativity, facilitate collaboration and help us attract and retain the world’s best and most diverse talent.”

“It will also better position our company for the future and provide for more production capacity,” Williams added. “This is an investment in our employees, our creative and business partners and the Burbank community that will continue to be our home for decades to come.”

Two office buildings designed by Frank Gehry are planned for the Warner Bros. Entertainment expansion between the main lot and the 134 Freeway in Burbank. (Image Courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP; Rendering courtesy of Sora)

The Gehry-designed building complex adjacent to the existing Warner Bros. main lot features a seven-story office building of about 355,000 square feet and a nine-story office building with approximately 445,000 square feet. The complex will be built according to LEED Certification standards.

Called the Second Century Project, groundbreaking is expected to take place in Fall 2019, with construction planned for two phases and expected to be completed by 2023, to coincide with Warner Bros.’ centennial celebration. Employees are slated to start working in the buildings as early as 2022.

“We are proud to continue our longstanding partnership with Warner Bros. which dates back over 30 years,” commented Jeff Worthe, President of Worthe Real Estate Group. “We are thrilled to deliver these iconic buildings to Burbank and can’t think of a better way to honor Warner’s past 100 years and celebrate their exciting future. We will add these buildings to our existing portfolio of outstanding office properties that covers over 4,000,000 square feet in the City of Burbank alone.”

“Once upon a time, Hollywood studios had an important architectural presence in the city – they were like monuments to the movie-making process,” said  Frank Gehry, Partner, Gehry Partners, LLP. “With this project, I was trying to recapture that feeling of old Hollywood splendor.”

“We wanted to create a 21st century version that would have a strong and unique identity for Jeff Worthe and for Warner Bros. in the center of Burbank,” Gehry continued. “We created large open floorplates with the single goal of creating the highest quality office space.”

warner bros burbank expansion

The planned Warner Bros. Entertainment expansion between the main lot and the 134 Freeway in Burbank. (Image Courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP; Rendering courtesy of Sora)

“From the freeway, the buildings are composed as one long sculptural glass façade that creates a single identity like icebergs floating along the freeway. On the studio side, the metal punched façade is terraced to relate to the scale and character of the existing studio buildings.”

“Collaborating with Jeff Worthe on this project has been special for me,” Gehry also said. “He is curious and open to ideas. He takes the time to explore ideas with a thoughtfulness toward the community and those who will inhabit the building. He understands and promotes the idea that architecture has value.”

“I hope that we have created something that works well for Warner Bros. and that is respectful of the community around it,” he added.

Also part of the deal, Warner Bros. will purchase a portion of The Burbank Studios property, which is currently home to Blizzard eSports Arena, the iHeartRadio theater and Days of Our Lives. Those productions “have leases and will remain in place,” according to Worthe.

The Burbank Studios purchase provides Warner Bros. with additional production office space and eight sound stages (with room for expansion), along with a mill building and a commissary, according to the joint press release issued by Warner Bros., Worthe Real Estate and Gehry Partners.

Another view of one of the two office buildings designed by Frank Gehry for the Warner Bros. Entertainment expansion between the main lot and the 134 Freeway in Burbank. (Image Courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP; Rendering courtesy of Sora)

Worthe Real Estate Group and Stockbridge real estate management firm will retain ownership of the land the two planned Gehry buildings will be built upon.

The intricate deal also requires Worthe Real Estate and Stockbridge to purchase in late 2019 three office buildings currently owned by Warner Bros. – the Triangle Building (4001 West Olive Avenue), Glass Building (3903 West Olive Avenue) and Wood Building (111 N. Hollywood Way), in addition to the 30-acre Warner Bros. Ranch located on Hollywood Way.

Warner Bros. will lease back the space from Worthe/Stockbridge until those employees can move to the new office space.

“The three existing office buildings will remain as such and leased out to new tenants, which could include Warner Bros.,” explained Worthe. “As for the Ranch Lot, we intend to carry out the entitlements that currently exist which is office and production spaces, much like The Burbank Studios development.”

The sale of the Ranch property and Warner Bros.’ purchase of The Burbank Studios are expected to take place in 2023, after Warner Bros. moves into the new space. The entertainment company also plans to move employees from other leased space surrounding the lot to the new campus.

Whether the expansion will result in the addition of more jobs and the development of new services and divisions for Warner Bros. is still “to be determined” at this point so early in the process, according to Warner Bros. Senior VP Worldwide Corporate Communications Paul McGuire.

“We are thrilled that Warner Bros.’ long-term plan includes an exciting new vision for their campus in Burbank,” said Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy. “This commitment further reinforces our City’s standing as the Media Capital of the World.”

The press release also stated, “Worthe Real Estate Group/Stockbridge, Gehry Partners, LLP and Warner Bros. will work closely with various agencies across the City of Burbank throughout the building process to ensure a compliant, community-conscious build.”

This article was updated at 10:36 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, to include Jeff Worthe’s comment that Blizzard eSports Arena, the iHeartRadio theater and Days of Our Lives “have leases and will remain in place.”