NEWPORT BEACH – Kobe Inc.’s most valuable player said he’s thrilled with support from the community, although he left a public hearing Thursday with no decision on how long the firm will be able to operate in its new digs.
Kobe Bryant didn’t speak during the meeting, but he talked with residents afterward – thanking them for their support, talking about the Lakers’ season and posing for photos.
“I love it here,” Bryant said. “It’s just a great place to be. … It’s home for me. I’m not going anywhere.”
The purpose of the hearing: to consider whether the headquarters for Kobe Inc. will get a 10-year extension on a zoning change at 1499 Monrovia Ave. The 16,650-square-foot building is slated to change from commercial and office zoning to residential zoning on Feb. 1, 2022.
Hearing officer Bill Conners said to expect his written decision in about a week.
The company’s mission, Bryant said, is to own and grow brands and ideas that redefine the sports industry. He started last year with an investment in BodyArmor, a sports drink company…
Residents at the meeting said they looked forward to seeing what Kobe Inc. would do with the building, which one resident called a bit of an eyesore. Some suggested keeping the commercial zoning on the property permanently.
“I think the city should open this up to Kobe Inc. forever, forget 10 years,” said Jesse Encinas, who worked in the building when it was Road & Track magazine, headquartered there until 2012.
Kobe Inc. has proposed spending $5.5 million on interior and exterior improvements to the two-story building. The 57-year-old building will require substantial structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing improvements, according to city documents.
Plans for the building show open office space surrounding a large circular staircase in the middle of the building, a private garage and a cafe. Andrea Fairchild, president of Kobe Inc., said there also will be a sound room and dark room to shoot digital content. The company hopes to move in by fall.
Kobe Inc. will use the building for its operations in the U.S. and some in China, Fairchild said.
“This is our global headquarters, and we plan to be here for the long term,” she said. “We’re excited to be your neighbors.”
Kobe Inc. bought the property from the city last year for $5.8 million, according to city documents.
If the extension is not granted, the property could not be used for commercial purposes after 2022. The property approved the current zoing in 2022 in an effort to get nonconforming structures out of residential areas.
“I believe the investment we’re going to make as a company to improve the property for Kobe Inc.’s use is critical,” said Scott Wetzel, tenant representative for the company.
Bryant said he was excited to build his company in the city he’s called home during the past 16 years. Now, Bryant said he’s looking for more smart investments and plans to add team members to build his company.
“I’m very excited,” Bryant said. “It feels amazing to have the support of the community.”