View Count: 168 |  Publish Date: June 09, 2013
Comcast brings its style to 30 Rock
Bob Fernandez, Inquirer Staff WriterPosted: Sunday, June 9, 2013, 3:01 AM
The global director of food service operations and events at NBCUniversal, Jason Giagrande, was asked several years ago to do something - anything! - with the commissary in iconic Rockefeller Center, which had been the butt of late-night TV jokes by Johnny Carson in the 1960s and a windowless, graceless dining experience for generations of NBC employees.
But no matter what Giagrande did, NBC staffers still grabbed their meals and hurried to their desks to eat, as if scurrying from a darkened New York alley.
Then in early 2011, Comcast Corp. bought NBCUniversal and the NBC offices from General Electric. With the deal came 20 of the 70 floors in 30 Rockefeller Plaza, along with TV studios.
"[Comcast executive] Steve Burkes first words to me when he looked at it were, We need a new space, " Giagrande said.
This January, the dazzling Studio 9C commissary opened on the ninth and 10th floors of 30 Rock with 244 seats, food stations, and a celebrity-chef area.
The project is part of a massive $190 million modernization thats bringing "Comcast style" to 30 Rock, one of the most recognized office buildings in the world, and boosting NBCUniversals capital-starved businesses.
Comcast has agreed to spend tens of millions of dollars on new cable-TV and broadcast-TV shows, $4.4 billion on the TV rights to the Olympics through 2020, and more than $1 billion on Universal theme parks in Florida and California.
At 30 Rock, floors are being reconfigured, out-of-fashion color schemes replaced with contemporary ones, work flow improved, and business units moved. There also is talk of a conference center. The project is scheduled to be completed next year.
NBC officials say it is the first major renovation in at least 25 years. GE upgraded a floor here and there, but neglected to put big bucks into a total overhaul.
The result was that Comcast inherited 1.2 million square feet of claustrophobic offices that contrasted sharply with the all-glass Comcast Center in Philadelphia and, ironically, the glamorous 30 Rock address itself.
As much a pop-cultural icon as a building, 30 Rock was the setting in recent years for the NBC hit comedy 30 Rock, starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, and over the decades a movie backdrop for The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956), Marjorie Morningstar (1958), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993), according to Daniel Okrents definitive 2003 book, Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center.
"It has everything to do with Comcast," said John Wallace, the president of operations and facilities for NBCUniversal, who began his career as an NBC page giving tours of the complex. "They had built this wonderful facility in Philadelphia, and they saw what it did to motivate their employees."
Going from black and white to Technicolor - as Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz - was the reaction of Julie Rothman, spokeswoman for the cable channel Oxygen, when she stepped off the elevator into the new loftlike space on the 12th floor of 30 Rock. Oxygen moved there in April.
Architects and designers tore out interior walls and exposed ceilings, allowing sunlight to pour into open areas near windows.
On the 51st floor, the walls between the executive offices were replaced with glass, allowing in sunlight.
A commissary model for Studio 9C was Ralphs in Comcasts Philadelphia headquarters. Ralphs, named after company founder Ralph Roberts, is on the 43d and 44th floors and seats more than 400.
NBC sent surveys to 3,500 employees, and 1,600 responded. "They wanted natural light," Giagrande said. "They wanted windows. We knew we would have windows."
Comcast cant put more windows into 30 Rock because of historic-preservation restrictions on the buildings exterior and so is attempting to bathe the offices in more sunlight using existing windows.
Initially called Radio City, the Rockefeller Center project employed 40,000 to 70,000 construction workers and laborers in the depths of the Depression. Construction began July 1931, and the publicity department for the developer, the John D. Rockefeller family, called it the "largest building project ever undertaken by private capital."
Radio Corp. of America, which owned NBC, leased space in 30 Rock, and for decades it was known as the RCA Building.
NBC hired Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC orchestra in 1937. A Toscanini legacy is a garden with mature trees and a small pond on the roof of the Studio Building, a horticultural oasis in Midtown Manhattan.
Wallace walked through the garden on his tour. "Isnt this great?" he asked. Comcast hopes to incorporate the garden into space for a conference center, he said.
After General Electric acquired RCA in the 1980s, the industrial giant put its name on the building. Now theres speculation that Comcast will do the same. Company officials arent commenting.
"It will never be known as the Comcast Building," Okrent said in a phone interview. "Everybody called it the RCA Building even when it was the GE Building. But now it will be known as 30 Rock. In New York, everybody calls it 30 Rock. Thats what happens when you have a popular TV show."
The Two Towers
Comcast 30 Rockefeller
Center Center
Opened 2007 1933
Stories 58 70
Height 975 feet836 feet
Rentable Space 1.2 million 2.1 million
square feet square feet
Holiday Tradition 25-minute Christmas
video in lobbytree, ice
skating in
the Plaza
Cafeteria Ralphs, Studio 9C, seats 444 seats 240
Ownership Comcast Corp. leases the Comcast
Center from Liberty Property Trust.
Comcast owns 20 floors of 30 Rock
in a condo-style arrangement.
NBC separately owns space
in the adjacent Studio Building
and West Tower.
SOURCES: Comcast Corp.; RCA archives
Contact Bob Fernandez
at 215-854-5897 or or follow on Twitter @bobfernandez1.Bob FernandezInquirer Staff Writer #post2 .pw-icon.ra1-pw-icon-reddit {background: url() 0px 0px no-repeat !important;width: 60px !important;height: 20px !important;margin-right:8px;}#post2 .pw-icon.ra1-pw-icon-email {background: url() 0px 0px no-repeat !important;width: 71px !important;height: 28px !important;}0comments

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