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Universal Studios eyes new SoCal development plan

2006-03-23

By Robert Niles: Universal City is buzzing with news about new construction on undeveloped sections of Universal Studios's backlot here in Los Angeles.

Here are stories today from the Los Angeles Times and L.A. Daily News.

The reason for the buzz is yesterday's announcement from Universal that it will again attempt to develop a master plan for the property, which has been the scene of numerous previous failed development attempts. The real estate market in Southern California is peaking now, and, if swiftly developed, the Universal land could net the company many millions in cash. In addition, Universal's production facilities are operating at near capacity, and need to expand.

What these leaves out, of course, is theme parks. Universal officials got burned a decade ago by neighbors with plans to expand the entertainment zone. In the LAT, Universal president Ron Meyer distanced the company from those plans.

"The last plan was more Orlando," said Meyer, referring to the company's Florida theme park and hotel collection. "We're not looking at a resort destination."

That isn't to say that a new master plan for the Universal property could not include substantial improvements to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and CityWalk. Universal officials have publicly and privately mused for years about the need to add and improve attractions at USH. And an expansion of production facilities elsewhere on site could make room for an expansion of the theme park onto adjacent land.

Just don't hold your breath waiting for Islands of Adventure West.

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