A $190 million modernization and facelift will bring “Comcast style” to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the home of NBCU built in 1933 during The Depression. Floors are being reconfigured, work flow improved and business units moved. It’s the first major renovation in at least 25 years.
The global director of food service operations and events at NBCUniversal, Jason Giagrande, was asked several years ago to do something 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, noted The Philadelphia Enquirer feature.
Then in early 2011, Comcast 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 inherited 1.2 million square feet of claustrophobic offices that contrasted sharply with the all-glass Comcast Center in Philadelphia and the glamorous, yet old-school 30 Rock address as well.
“[Comcast executive] Steve Burke’s first words to me when he looked at it were, ‘We need a new space,’ ” Giagrande told the paper.
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 that’s bringing “Comcast style” to 30 Rock, one of the most recognized office buildings in the world. 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.
So far, 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 Ralph’s in Comcast’s Philadelphia headquarters. Ralph’s, 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 told The Enquirer. “They wanted windows. We knew we would have windows.”
Comcast can’t put more windows into 30 Rock because of historic-preservation restrictions on the building’s exterior and so is attempting to bathe the offices in more sunlight using existing windows.
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 Okrent’s 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.”
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.
After GE acquired RCA in the 1980s, the industrial giant put its name on the building. Now there’s speculation that Comcast will do the same, but it isn’t likely.