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Indie Studio Complex Would Bring Soundstages, Office Space To Hollywood Sears Site

A joint venture between BARDAS Investment Group and Boston-based Bain Capital Real Estate announced today that it submitted plans to the city of Los Angeles to build a $450M film studio project on a city block in Hollywood where two successive developers had tried to build housing.

Called Echelon Studios, the campus will feature four 19K SF soundstages, a 15K SF flex stage and a 90K SF “creative village of high-end bungalows,” which BARDAS Managing Principal and founder David Simon told the Los Angeles Times are aimed at production companies and intended as a throwback to studio lots of Old Hollywood. Two five-story office buildings with 350K SF are also part of the project, which is designed by architecture firm Rios.

Simon said that the plan is for the independent studio to be able to rent space out to as many as five different content producers at the same time.

A rendering of the new Echelon Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard between Wilton and St. Andrews.

“The increase in demand for new content and limited existing studio and production space is generating competition in the market,” Simon said in a statement. “Leveraging our unique knowledge of the media and entertainment sectors, along with Bain Capital Real Estate’s strategic and operational capabilities, we are well positioned to deliver high quality product to meet the demand from the content creation industry.”

Simon told the Times that soundstage occupancy has been at 95%-plus for the past five or six years and he doesn’t see it slowing down soon.

He isn’t the only one. In late March, Hackman Capital Partners announced plans to transform the Television City studio and production complex, adding at least 15 modern, purpose-built soundstages to the property’s current eight and production and office space as part of a $1.25B expansion.

Hackman Capital Partners CEO Michael Hackman said at the time that LA lacked enough modern soundstages and production facilities to meet market demand and that letting that imbalance persist could risk the industry leaving Hollywood or the state altogether.

Echelon Studios would have office buildings along its east and west boundaries.

The 5-acre site bordered by St. Andrews Place, Santa Monica Boulevard, Wilton Place and Virginia Avenue is home now to a shuttered Sears building, vacant since 2008, and parking. Over the last decade or so, developers saw it as a good potential site for housing.

In 2007, Continental Development Group wanted to build a mixed-use project on the property, but it was sued by the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association, a local group that has filed lawsuits to stop other developments in the neighborhood and across the city.

CIM Group bought the site in 2015, paying $43.5M, the Los Angeles Business Journal reported at the time. CIM also planned a mixed-use complex with hundreds of apartments over retail and wanted to rehabilitate the Sears as part of the project. The last indication of any forward movement on that project was in 2017, when CIM was working on a traffic study as part of the development process.

Los Angeles County Assessor’s records show that the property traded hands in February 2021 for $81.9M. The new owner is listed on public records as an LLC with the address of BARDAS’ headquarters, but the joint venture of Bain Capital Real Estate and BARDAS are the owners, a representative of the JV confirmed.

The partnership has 1M SF of projects in the works, including this one. It is aiming to begin construction in 2023 on Echelon Studios and open in 2025, Simon told the Times.