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Medient plans to start work on studio soon
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A massive studio project planned for Effingham County has settled on a general contractor and has picked a construction start date.

Medient Studios will work with Charleston, S.C.-based Shore Development and Construction for its complex to be built near the Interstate 16-Old River Road interchange. Plans call for 2 million square feet of studios, offices, outdoor entertainment venues, lodging and housing.

When it is completed, Medient’s Effingham locale will be the largest soundstage in the world.

“We really feel we are in place right now where everything we have talked about can actually come to fruition,” said Medient CEO Manu Kumaran. “It’s taken a little bit longer than we expected, but we are on our way.”

Thursday, IDA members approved the revised Medient master plan, along with a provision that a letter from consulting engineers Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung denotes that items in the memorandum of understanding have been addressed satisfactorily.

IDA members agreed that while some timelines in the original agreement have changed, others won’t.

“It’s a very large, very intensive use project that is going to take a lot of fleshing out,” IDA CEO John Henry said. “Everything that has been done to this point has been reset.”

Said IDA Chairman Dennis Webb: “What we need to do is pass some kind of motion to keep the process rolling, to protect the IDA and the county and to put some dates certain and identify some of these dates that we’re going to change and some that can be flexible.”

Kumaran said they anticipate beginning construction in less than two months.

“The big change is we have broken up phase 2 into two different stages,” he said.

The first and foremost step, said Jeremy Blackburn, president of Shore Development and Construction and CEO of Titan Atlas Global, is to get the studio operational.

“We think we can get that done very quickly,” he said. “The faster we can get that going and drive businesses and revenues, the faster that dream becomes a reality.”

Titan Atlas Global will produce sustainable construction products, fashioned for environmentally-conscious building. Shore is expected to seek local contractors and will be adding employees in Georgia. Titan Atlas Global also is expected to add to its workforce for production of materials to be delivered to the construction site.

“These guys know what they’re doing on the construction side,” Kumaran said.

Blackburn said they hope to have an updated critical path ready this week.

Kumaran said he has been in talks with several companies to provide the technology needed to make his studio idea work, even with firms that are competitors but could be supplying different parts the studio needs.

“The idea is being received very, very well, “he said. “We have conversations going with one of the largest technology companies in the world. I’m talking with truly global, truly large conglomerates.

“It took some convincing, but it is coming together rather nicely.”

C.J. Chance of Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung has reviewed the revised master plan on the IDA’s behalf, and Henry said having a general contractor ready could help clear up several hurdles, mostly relating to projected water and sewer needs and how to accommodate those.

“They were tough to address before having a general contractor, engineer and architect on board with the project that we could address the questions with,” Henry said. “The best opportunity now is for us to sit down with CJ and the general contractor and go through the list and get some of these addressed.. We know the issues and the options with that. Now we have to figure out what it’s going to take to pull that together and keep us on track.”

IDA member Dick Knowlton said it was important to have the county’s engineering staff involved throughout the process.

“I want to make sure we don’t do something inadvertently that negatively affects the county’s system in any way,” he said. “We need to be partners in this. It’s not our organization doing this.”

An ad hoc committee of Knowlton, Chap Bennett, Rose Harvey and Charles Hinely has been established to meet with the engineering teams from the county and the developers.

“We’ve got to get it started,” Webb said. “Now that we have a contractor on board, I’m very optimistic about that. It’s been a struggle to get to this point.”