The Chi producer plans $60M film studio on South Side

Proposed Regal Mile Studios

Film and TV production in Chicago is 100% up and running, and expanding to the south side. The executive producer of The Chi television series, Derek Dudley is joining forces with Loop Capital Chairman and CEO, Jim Reynolds with plans for a film studio that they expect will bring thousands of jobs to the South Shore area.

Both grew up near the proposed site, Dudley, who lived at 70th Street and East Euclid Avenue and Reynolds grew up in South Shore, near 80th and South Jeffery Boulevard, and they want to help revive the area through development and job creation.

The Regal Mile Studios, a $60 million project would create six sound studios and offices totaling about 220,000 square feet, is the first phase of what they hope will be followed by additional construction of studios and space for other businesses such as restaurants, shops and hotels.

film studio
Avalon Regal Theater

If the project succeeds, the new studio, located near the historic Avalon Regal Theater, will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in an area of the city that for decades has lacked investment, Dudley told the Chicago Tribune. It would also be a key step toward enhancing Chicago’s filmmaking credentials, a goal of city and state officials.

The project’s success would reinforce broader efforts by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to elevate neighborhoods on the South and West sides, including through the $750 million Invest South/West program.

Demand for studio space in Chicago and the nation far exceeds supply amid an ongoing entertainment boom, as Netflix, Amazon Prime and other content providers churn out new shows for binge-watching customers.

It has been reported that city officials including the mayor, planning director Maurice Cox and 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, are all in support of the project.

It was also reported that Regal Mile Studios is in talks with Chicago Public Schools to set up internships at Regal Mile for 11th and 12th grade students in order to train students for high-paying union jobs, many of which don’t require a college education.

Crain’s Chicago Business first reported the zoning application back in May 2021. Plans for the project emerged publicly when the developers filed documents seeking a zoning change for the site along the Chicago Skyway, where a Super Kmart store was proposed about 20 years ago. It has been reported that the developers submitted a zoning application with the city on Wednesday, and they have a deal to buy the site if the City Council approves the new zoning.

Dudley and Reynolds plan to finance their project with private capital and have involved Alpco Ventures, a real estate developer whose projects include a film studio in Newark, New Jersey; Los Angeles-based film industry consultant RoadTown Enterprises; and Dakota Development, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based SBE Entertainment Group.

Pending zoning approval, the group wants to begin construction of Regal Mile Studios by the fall, and intend to open it by late 2022.

Each of the six sound studios could employ as many as 250 workers at a time, depending on filming schedules. That means the initial phase could have up to 1,500 workers on the site at a time, Dudley told the Chicago Tribune.

The project has the potential to create a “ripple effect”, boosting demand for restaurants, stores and other nearby businesses that would cater to the people who work there. South Shore’s commercial strips are suffering from high vacancies and could use a boost.

In 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended state film tax credits through 2026, as a way to keep TV shows such as Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago P.D. along with their high-paying jobs in the state.

The film industry also is a key focus of Lightfoot’s Chicago Recovery Task Force. A report by that group said there were about 14,000 film production jobs in the state before the pandemic.

On Chicago’s Northwest Side, another film campus is in the works at 4000 W. Diversey Ave. New York-based Knickpoint Ventures wants to turn part of the former Marshall Field’s warehouse complex called The Fields, into film space.

In addition, the newly constructed CineCity Studios, home of PRG is just around the corner from Cinespace Chicago Film Studios and plans further expansion to include condo-like housing rentals for short and long term, a gym and a rooftop pool.

ALSO READ: Our Top 10 list of the best TV shows set in Chicago

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