By Marianne Love | PUBLISHED: August 15, 2019 at 9:17 pm | UPDATED: August 16, 2019 at 10:06 am
Live. Work. Play. It was a common refrain Thursday night as Isaac Larian, CEO and founder of MGA Entertainment, Inc., opened up his 24-acre North American headquarters in Chatsworth to local leaders and reporters to see.
The “play” part of it was perhaps predictable — given that Larian’s company makes toys children play with — think Little Tikes and L.O.L. Surprise!, and then there’s the Bratz fashion doll line, BABY born, Lalaloopsy, Num Noms andMoxie Girlz.
But Larian’s latest project brings “play” to a different level.
Imagine working, living and playing within a few feet of each other in the San Fernando Valley, without battling the congestion of the 101 or 405 freeways to get where you need to be.
For the 370 employees at Larian’s privately held Chatsworth-based company, that is becoming a reality.
Referred to as “24,” the project was touted as a first-of-its-kind development in Los Angeles, which about 400 invited guests (some of whom were local leaders who had a hand in making the project happen), got to see on Thursday during a tour.
“I went to Singapore and I went to Hong Kong and pitched the idea of a live, work and play concept to (former Los Angeles City Councilmember) Mitch Englander,” said Larian. “He worked with all the city department heads and the mayor. My dream was to make this building and area come true. I wanted to create the ‘Goggle’ campus of Southern California.”
The Google campus in Playa del Rey is similar to Chatsworth’s 24, but does not have the living feature.
Visitors arrive for the grand opening of the new MGA Entertainment location in Chatsworth, CA Thursday, August 15, 2019. The new MGA Entertainment Worldwide Headquarters features a state of the art facility which will be open to the public and contain open spaces, living, dining and entertainment areas. MGA produces the best selling toys in America including brands like L.O.L. Surprise!, Poopsie Slime Surprise, Pop Pop Hair Surprise, BABY born, Little Tikes, VIRO Rides, The Hangrees, Num Noms, Project Mc2 and more. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Larian said the project, at 20000 Prairie Street, took around five years to complete and costs tens of millions of dollars in construction, renovations and improvements. (Back in 2016, the company was expecting to put more than $150 million into the project.)
Set in an industrial area of Chatsworth in a former Los Angeles Times building on Winnetka Avenue and Prairie Street, the complex includes a “live-work-and-play” campus featuring apartments, offices, a preschool, dining options, retail, a yoga studio, a transit plaza, a village green with an outdoor movie theatre, a running track, an amphitheater for live events and a soon-to-be weekly farmers’ market.
The campus and its multiple buildings and amenities, currently in phase one of three phases, are open to the public.
The building that will house the production, design and development is 255,000 square feet. The workplace area has an industrial feel with open ceilings, glass and steel and is littered with toys, as one can imagine.
Employees have been working at the site since May. The apartment complex remains under construction. About 10 percent to 20 percent of the employees are expected to live on campus that will eventually offer 660 units.
MGA Entertainment Inc, which stands for Micro-Games America Entertainment, is an American manufacturer of children’s toys and entertainment products founded in 1979.
Englander, who attended the open house, said the concept is unique to the United States and California in particular and “yet we have it here in the San Fernando Valley. There was zero community opposition and no appeals.”
He believes a campus where people live and work will create opportunities not yet imagined.
“Creative space where people live, work and play, (fosters) relationship, creates families,” he said. “And not only is this open to the community, it will become a community hub.”
Leaders touted a project timeline that took a little more than a year to go through planning and environmental reviews. The L.A. City Council greenlighted the plan in February 2016, after the previous year moving to rezone the area from light industrial to industrial-commercial to accommodate MGA’s project.
L.A. City Councilman-elect John Lee, who won the run-off election on Tuesday to fill Englander’s seat in the 12th district, said he first learned about the proposed project when he was Englander’s chief of staff.
“I was always excited about the complex,” Lee said. “It’s an innovative concept and will help reduce traffic congestion in the city. It’s so incredibly proud to have this project in the 12th district.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti praised Larian, 65, an Iranian immigrant who came to the United States in 1971 with $753 in his pocket and big dreams, and now 1,500 employees worldwide, making it the largest privately owned toy company in the United States.
“I love telling Isaac Larian’s story,” Garcetti said. “He came to this country from half way around the world. You found your way and a job after walking up and down La Brea (Avenue) for weeks and weeks. Issac Larian found fertile ground (here in Los Angeles) and that touches the world.”