Central City Studios to rise as 5-stage complex on 11 acre former dump site

The on-again, off-again Central City X Studios is back on again with a vengeance. The Community Development Commission gave a stamp of approval Tuesday to a plan to build a $43.7 million, state-of-the- art film and TV studio complex on the West Side.

The 11-acre former illegal mountain of debris at 4300-58 W. Roosevelt Road figured prominently in the city’s Silver Shovel scandal of the mid-’90s. “Changing the dump site to a movie studio is a pretty incredible accomplishment, no matter how many years it takes,” said Peter Scales, Dept. of Planning and Development spokesman.

Under the plan recommended by the CDD, the city would sell the site to Central City Studios LLC for about $1.1 million, according to Scales. Construction would be funded through use of $10.5 million in tax increment financing (TIF funds), more than $27 million in state bonds and grants and nearly $7 million in private equity.

Designed by studio architects Bastien & Associates, Inc. and Campbell, Tiu, Campbell, the complex will contain 182,900-sq. ft. of total building area.

It will consist of five sound stages, three 18,000-sq. ft., and two 28,800-sq. ft., plus a three-story production office building, a 21,660-sq. ft. mezzanine for production support, and a 450-car parking lot.

Construction will commence six months after final City Council approval. It should take 18 months until the facility is completed. Contractors are expected to go to minority-owned companies and part of the deal is to train and employ racial minority residents from the surrounding West Side neighborhoods for production jobs.

The Central City Studios LLC is a partnership between Raleigh Enterprises of Santa Monica, which will provide management, marketing and equipment capabilities, and attorney Stephen Allison and producer Don Jackson, who had proposed a $150 million movie complex back in 1999, but had to substantially scale it back after the original plan suffered a number of setbacks.

How the $7 million in private equity will be raised, and what the financial interest of each participant is has not been disclosed, although it’s said that Raleigh invested $6 million. Others said that Raleigh’s investment will be limited to equipment and management. Mark Rosenthal, president of Raleigh Enterprises, declined to discuss the details of his company’s financial involvement, saying “that’s Stephen’s area.”

Raleigh Enterprises owns Raleigh Studios, the oldest, continuously operating studio in the U.S., with facilities in Hollywood and Manhattan Beach. It recently acquired Hollywood Rentals, specialists in lighting and grip, generators and production vehicle rentals, which is currently servicing the features “Roll, Bounce” and “Batman” while they film in Chicago.

Rosenthal said his company had been brought into the equation a few months ago. “We’ve been in the independent studio business since 1979 and have a good sense of what the industry needs are in terms of facilities and equipment,” Rosenthal said.

Commercial production has been a mainstay of Raleigh Studios and Rosenthal expects studio rentals will come from Chicago ad agencies as well as from production of features and TV shows and series.

Rosenthal avoided noting if L.A. appointees would hold management positions here. “We anticipate we will do our best to have people from the local community working in management, while the oversight and controls would come from L.A.,” he said.