$500M recording studio, creative complex planned for Hollywood

Project at Sunset and Highland would among largest black-owned enterprises in Tinseltown

Thomas St. John and Philip Lawrence with a rendering of the project at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue
Thomas St. John and Philip Lawrence with a rendering of the project at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue

A Grammy-winning songwriter has proposed building a $500-million recording studio, creative office and amphitheater complex in Hollywood.

Writer and producer Philip Lawrence has teamed up with entertainment business manager Thomas St. John to propose a 13-story indoor-outdoor project at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue, the Los Angeles Times reported. Plans were to be filed Friday, March 18.

Plans call for melding a top-flight recording studio with offices rented to people in the entertainment business, plus an auditorium and amphitheater for concerts within a landscaped venue high above the street.

“We see this place as being an immersive playground for students, artists, creators and innovators of all types while also creating more opportunities in the entertainment industry,” said St. John, chief executive of Cmnty Culture, the Black-owned music and media business he launched with Lawrence in 2020 that would operate the new studios.

The bowl-like Cmnty Culture Campus on nearly two acres across from Hollywood High School was designed by HKS, a global architectural firm based in Dallas, which designed the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

The contractor is David Malmuth, based in San Diego, who oversaw construction of the Hollywood & Highland shopping, entertainment and office complex now called Ovation Hollywood.

Outdoor spaces have been designed by the studio of Oakland-based landscape architect Walter Hood, whose projects include Broad Museum Plaza in Downtown.

The concept behind the new culture center begins at the top, where recording studios with views of the Hollywood Hills and Downtown would have kitchens, entertainment space and sleeping quarters.

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“You could essentially live here while you are cutting tracks,” architect Heath May of HKS said. “The mission is to increase creativity.”

Its biggest component would be 430,000 square feet of offices for rent to one or multiple creative tenants. At street level would be a restaurant, cafe and a 500-seat auditorium for concerts, tenant events and educational or public meetings. There would be underground parking for 1,000 vehicles.

The campus would replace commercial buildings, parking lots and a plant nursery. Residential buildings on the block would remain intact, the developers said. If approved, construction of the campus could take three years.

While post-pandemic demand for office space is uncertain, technology and entertainment companies have been expanding their office footprints. Streaming provider Netflix is the largest office tenant in Hollywood, while Sunset Boulevard is home to multiple movie and recording studios.

Last year, a developer filed plans for a $500-million egg-shaped, glass-and-steel tower on Sunset near Gower Street, aimed at serving the entertainment industry.

[Los Angeles Times] – Dana Bartholomew

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