A 48-acre industrial site in North Lawndale appears set to transform into a place that fabricates Hollywood dreamscapes instead of copper, steels and other metals.
Toronto-based Cinescape Studios chairman Nick Mirkopoulos told the Sun-Times last week that his firm has purchased a 48-acre site near Rockwell and 16th St. in North Lawndale, a stone’s throw from the Illinois Medical District, Pilsen and other Near West Side communities.
The Chicago Film Studio, as the project has been dubbed, will bring thousands of jobs to the city, Mirkopoulos told the Sun-Times, and anchor Chicago’s place in the film industry.
Mirkopoulos did not respond to repeated Chicago Journal requests for an interview.
Ryerson, a Chicago-based firm, distributes and processes a variety of metals at factories around the country as well as in Canada and China. The firm announced plans to scale back its Chicago operations in the summer of 2007.
Terry Rogers, Ryerson’s chief financial officer, confirmed negotiations with Cinespace are ongoing but cautioned the firm does “not have a deal with Cinespace right now.”
Ald. Ed Smith (28th), whose ward includes the site, has been meeting with Mirkopoulos and city staffers for the last several months, discussing the project.
Smith acknowledged, declining to go into specifics, the possibility of “hang-ups” but said Cinespace seemed ready to make the investment. No sales documents for the property have been filed with the county recorder of deeds office. Smith promised support from the city if the project is sealed.
“It was a great opportunity. We will not have buildings that are vacant over there. It will be a very productive thing,” Smith said. “It will embellish everything we’re trying to do over here.”
The city is considering a range of options to assist the firm, from New Market Tax Credits to tax increment financing dollars, according to Molly Sullivan, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Development.
“Everything is open to discussion,” she said, but nothing has been finalized.
Last week, however, the Illinois Senate sent Gov. Pat Quinn a bill that included a $5 million grant for the Chicago Film Studio.
Filmmakers seeking to work in Illinois are also eligible for tax breaks.
In Dec. 2008, state lawmakers passed a bill that provided a 30 percent tax credit for certified television, film or video production spending and a 15 percent credit for hiring Illinois residents from high poverty or high unemployment areas in the state.
Betsy Steinberg, managing director of the Illinois Film Office, said having additional production capacity would help her office convince filmmakers to make movies here, and put Chicago in the running for additional large-scale projects.
“In my estimate when you add a tremendous amount of capacity you can attract that much more business,” she said. “This is potentially the largest facility in North America outside of Los Angeles.”
The City of Chicago also maintains a film office to attract visual media production.
Kevin Cooper, a professor of film production in Columbia College’s Department of Film and Video, wrote in an e-mail that Cinespace’s project and Columbia’s own facility – scheduled for opening in early 2010 at 16th and State – will reinvigorate the production landscape in the Midwest.
“People are thrilled about the prospects of how these types of facilities may jump-start local production,” Cooper’s e-mail read.
Cinespace maintains three studios in Canada as well as production offices, carpentry shops and other rooms, according to information posted to its Web site.
Films created in Cinespace facilities include the “Saw” series, the comedy “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” and, in 2002, the gangster film “Chicago.”