A 500,000-square-foot mixed-use office complex described as “a love song to L.A.” is in the works for one of Hollywood’s most prominent intersections as the development boom transforming the once-fading heart of Tinseltown into a 21st-century creative hub continues apace.
Set to rise on a 2-acre site at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and North Highland Avenue opposite the landmark Hollywood High School, the CMNTY Culture Campus is described in a press release revealing the proposed development as one of the largest Black-owned enterprises in the area and a first-of-its-kind project that will “bring together all aspects of the industry— from artists and content creators, tech and media companies, agencies and management companies, and other entertainment sectors with the mission to support artistic creation and enrich the Hollywood community.”
“CMNTY Culture Campus will be a place where creative people will want to hang out with like-minded individuals and experience something special,” elaborated Philip Lawrence, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer who is also the founder of the independent, Black-owned multimedia entertainment group CMNTY Culture. Joining Lawrence as partner in the venture is entertainment business manager and CEO of CMNTY Culture, Thomas St. John.
Developer David Malmuth, who is one the forces behind downtown San Diego’s I.D.E.A. District and who led the development of the Hollywood & Highland complex (now Ovation Hollywood) in the late-1990s and early aughts while with TrizecHahn, is serving as project executive.
Given that Indiana-born Lawrence is best known for his work with Bruno Mars and the Hooligans and as owner of the storied Hollywood recording studio the Record Plant, it makes sense then that CMNTY Culture Campus, as proposed, would place a special emphasis on the music industry. But ultimately, the 13-story mixed-use complex, designed by Dallas-headquartered HKS Architects, would be a destination for all creative industries, with a total of 430,000 feet of office space, recording studios along with post-production facilities, 4,440 square feet of retail, artist hospitality space, and a 500-seat performance venue that will be located at street-level on the northeast corner of Sunset and Highland.
The campus will feature abundant public outdoor green space, courtesy of the Oakland-based Hood Design Studio, including a sprawling and park-like terrace on the fifth story complete with an amphitheater for concerts and other outdoor events.
Design renderings of the campus shared by CMNTY depict a square-shaped indoor-outdoor complex wrapped in a monumental, undulating screen structure. Another key proposed element is a swooping, ribbon-like pink pavilion that would anchor the rooftop amphitheater.
“Music has always steered and reflected culture. Our goal here is to bring people of diverse backgrounds together and amplify voices into something greater than the individual,” explained Heath May, principal at HKS who is serving as lead designer of the project. “We want to create a place that is transparent and permeable. The musical instrument is not just the inspiration for the building, but it’s a metaphor for much of the design of CMNTY Culture Campus, creating a performative quality for the building dramatizing that there is something exciting happening here.”
San Francisco-based May, who is director of HKS LINE (Laboratory for INtensive Exploration), served as senior designer for the firm’s SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. That project recently enjoyed its moment in the spotlight as host stadium for Super Bowl LVI.
There will also be a robust educational component to the campus, potentially launched in partnership with its neighborhood across the street, Hollywood High.
“We hope to build sister programs,” Lawrence explained to the Los Angeles Times. “However we can bring kids to understand how the entertainment industry works. Education is very important to the team and me.”
Although the development is in the early stages, further updates will be provided at the dedicated CMNTY Culture Campus website in the coming weeks and months. The project, which will now undergo a standard approvals process that will 18 months or longer per the Times, has garnered some enthusiastic early support from the Hollywood community including from Leron Gubler, president emeritus of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, who said in a statement: “The innovative mix of production, performance, and creative office space being proposed by this project guarantees that Hollywood will firmly retain its crown as the entertainment capital of the world for generations to come.”
As noted by the Times, construction work would take roughly three years if the $500 million project is approved. Currently at the development site is a plant nursery, parking lots, and several commercial buildings, including the live performance venue Live House, which as noted by the Times, is currently closed but would be temporarily reopened by CMNTY Culture during the planning process. The current moniker of the proposed complex could also potentially change to reflect the name of a marquee tenant that might sign on down the road.