Grammy-winning artist-led developers plan to transform a prominent corner of Sunset Boulevard by building a $500 million office and recording center that would be one of the largest black-owned businesses in the Hollywood area.
Plans for the 13-story indoor-outdoor complex are to be submitted to the city on Friday by Philip Lawrence, owner of famed Hollywood recording studio Record Plant, in partnership with entertainment company executive Thomas St. John.
Lawrence, who has won eight Grammys as a songwriter and record producer, has contracted established real estate figures to build the nearly two-acre project on Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue across from Hollywood High School .
The complex was designed by HKS, the architectural firm that designed SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, where the Super Bowl was played in February.
Lawrence’s goal is to merge a high-profile recording studio with office space for rent to people in the entertainment industry. There would be public spaces including an auditorium and an amphitheater where visitors could hear concerts in a landscaped setting above the street.
“We want to create a destination where artists can discover, grow and have access to all aspects of entertainment,” Lawrence said. “So we build state-of-the-art recording facilities for music, film, composition, and all production-related musical needs.”
Lawrence, who has collaborated with singers such as Bruno Mars and Adele, hopes to build on the success of her neighboring Record Plant, where chance conversations in the hallway or communal kitchen can sometimes lead to artistic collaborations.
“The next thing you know,” Lawrence said, “there’s a great song with Beyonce, Ariana Grande, and Frank Ocean and people are like, ‘How did that happen? “”
This particular collaboration has yet to happen, but Lawrence plans to add some deluxe features that popular musicians might find appealing. Top-floor recording studios with views of the Hollywood Hills and downtown LA would have kitchens, entertainment space and sleeping quarters.
“You could basically live here while you cut tracks,” said architect Heath May of HKS. “The mission is to increase creativity.”
The complex is destined to have some of the most prominent recording studios in the industry with pre- and post-production facilities, as well as so many other activities that the campus has been compared to “an anthill” by May’s fellow architect, Greg Verabian.
The largest component would be 430,000 square feet of office space for rent, perhaps to several entertainment companies looking for a Hollywood address or to a large tenant who might want to brand the building with their company name. Occupants of the offices would have access to outdoor landscaped terraces that could be used for work or during off hours watching concerts at the park-like fifth-floor rooftop amphitheater.
Developer David Malmuth, who oversaw the development of the Hollywood & Highland entertainment and office complex (now known as Ovation Hollywood), where the annual Oscars are held, is responsible for building the project.
The outdoor spaces are designed by the studio of Oakland landscape architect Walter Hood, former chair of landscape architecture at UC Berkeley, whose projects include the Broad Museum Plaza in downtown Los Angeles.
At street level would be a restaurant, cafe, and 500-seat auditorium that could be used for concerts, tenant events, public meetings, or educational gatherings.
“We see this place as an immersive playground for students, artists, creators and innovators of all types while creating more opportunities in the entertainment industry,” said St. John, who serves as director General of Cmnty Culture, Black Owned Music. and the media venture he started with Lawrence in 2020 that would operate the new studios.
The planned development in Hollywood is dubbed Cmnty Culture Campus, although this name may be changed later to reflect the identity of a large office tenant.
Lawrence and St. John plan to hire students at Hollywood High, which offers magnetic programs in the performing arts and new media.
“We hope to create sister programs,” Lawrence said, which could include courses, internships and masterclasses with entertainment professionals. “However, we can get kids to understand how the entertainment industry works,” he said. “Education is very important to the team and to me.”
The campus would have underground parking for 1,000 vehicles. It would replace commercial buildings, parking lots and a nursery. The block’s residential buildings would remain intact, developers said.
Among the commercial buildings on the site is Live House, a performance venue with dance studios that was closed but is now in receivership from Cmnty Culture, Malmuth said. The developers plan to temporarily reopen Live House while they plan the new campus.
Demand for office space in the coming years is uncertain as many companies reassess their space needs after working from home became common during the COVID-19 pandemic, Malmuth acknowledged, but tech producers and entertainment are among the companies that continue to expand their desktop footprint.
The occupants of the campus would not necessarily be in the music business. Streaming entertainment provider Netflix is the largest office tenant in Hollywood, and Sunset Boulevard is home to several film and recording studios.
Last year, another developer announced plans for a $500 million glass-skinned office skyscraper on Sunset near Gower Street, also to serve the entertainment industry.
Sunset, which has seen a revival of entertainment uses over the past few decades, “has become arguably the most important content creation corridor in the world,” Malmuth said.
However, the approval of the project by the city is not won in advance. The process usually takes 18 months or more.
“We don’t take it for granted that we’re going to be able to get rights,” he said, but “we think we have an extremely attractive project both physically and in terms of job creation.”
If approved, construction of the campus would take approximately three years. Lawrence hopes it will eventually become a Hollywood staple.
“This is our love letter to Hollywood,” he said, “to hopefully bring the community together for generations to come.”