CITY HALL — Lionsgate, the independent entertainment house responsible for hits like “Mad Men,” and Academy-Award winner “Crash,” took a step toward remaining in Santa Monica for the long haul when planning commissioners Wednesday night gave hesitant approval to a development agreement that would put the company’s prospective new headquarters on the 2800 block of Colorado Avenue.

The commission approved the agreement, with conditions, on advice from Deputy City Attorney Barry Rosenbaum, who said that a denial would still go before the City Council, but that the conditions placed on the project would hold less weight.

Commissioners saw, for the first time, the newest iteration of what has become a two-building project set near not only two other developments that are working toward agreements, but also a residential neighborhood. The northern section is the larger of the two.

It’s four stories tall, and approximately 141,878 square feet, with 3,000 feet of retail space adjacent to Colorado Avenue and another 2,900 feet on the south end by Pennsylvania Avenue.

The remainder of the first and upper three floors consists of a lobby area, creative offices and storage space.

The southern section is nearly one-third the size of its northern partner. It has 3,000 feet of retail located at Stewart Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and an entry court at the main building on Stewart Street.

The rest of the building is all offices and storage.

Shared parking comes built into the design, which offers 640 spaces in a three-level subterranean garage.

As with all development agreements, the Lionsgate project comes saddled with a variety of public benefits negotiated with community stakeholders, including widened sidewalks, an extension of Pennsylvania Avenue through the project, internships for Santa Monica College students, $363,000 contribution to the nearby light rail station and local hiring among others.

The full package was valued at $1,793,446.

The new building will make a good home for the entertainment company, said Jack Walter, the managing partner of Colorado Creative Studios.

“Like Culver City has its Sony, and Hollywood that has its Paramount, Santa Monica has Lionsgate,” Walter said.

The project has been in the works in various forms since August 2006 when the owner, Colorado Creative Studios, first applied to develop the property into 54 artist studios.

That concept was put on hold when Lionsgate approached the company about putting up a headquarters on the site, and has stayed on the backburner while Colorado Creative Studios, Lionsgate and City Hall forged a development agreement to make the dream a reality.

It’s been a long time coming because the applicant waited until the updated land use and circulation element, or LUCE, was accepted, said Paul Foley, the city planner that took over responsibility for the project in February. LUCE is a planning document that will dictate development citywide for the next 20 years or more.

Now, it seemed that both the entertainment company — which has extended its lease at its current site to wait out the LUCE process — and the owner wanted to move forward with the project, and quickly.

Getting the ball rolling would allow the developer to take advantage of the down economy and low construction and materials prices, which could lop off as much as 20 percent if it started by 2013, Walter told the commission.

Planning commissioners, however, had many concerns.

Chief among them was the iconic nature of the project.

It, along with the Roberts Center development agreement and that for the Village Trailer Park, form a geographic and conceptual trifecta as the first three agreements formed fully by the new LUCE to come before the Planning Commission.

The Roberts Center will be a mixed-use production and housing space, and the fate of the Village Trailer Park is currently under negotiation.

That being said, only four of six commissioners were present at the meeting to examine the agreement, which made at least two members nervous about moving forward.

“For this to go to the City Council without more discussion and input concerns me a bit,” said Chair Pro Tempore Gerda Newbold.

She was similarly concerned to send it off with the sheer number of conditions put upon it by commissioner and architect Hank Koning, who laid down between 12 and 14 extra points for the council to “carefully review.”

Those conditions ran the gamut, and included specific numbers of trees on sides facing certain cardinal directions of the buildings, adding a community room to the cafe area, conditions for a city bike sharing program that does not yet exist and landscape, parking and other spacial studies.

Newbold added on two more, specifically stronger traffic control measures and a change in the language of the agreement that gave the developer an out if enforcing those measures wasn’t “economically reasonable.”

“These (demands) seem weaker than what we’ve done in more recent projects,” Newbold said.

Walter agreed to work with whomever he needed to on the commission or at City Hall to meet the goals of the conditions.

“We want a good project, a good building and a happy city,” Walter said.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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