The development schedule for a planned massive Effingham County movie production facility is finished and in the hands of the Effingham Industrial Development Authority.
Moon River Studios turned over its development schedule for the proposed studioplex, complete with milestones the IDA sought.
“It is thoroughly fleshed out,” said IDA CEO John Henry. “I think everything is in sync. It looks very good. It is a very practical document now.”
Earlier this month, the Coastal Regional Commission approved Moon River Studios’ development of regional impact application. The CRC issued its finding that the DRI was “in the best interest of the region and therefore of the state.”
Moon River Studios CEO Jake Shapiro offered his thanks to the IDA for a series of weekly meetings that addressed what had been done and what needed to be done next for the project.
“Five months ago, when we started this whole new process, the DRI was seen as a huge linchpin, with so much work and so much studies to make things happen,” Shapiro said. “That’s the turning point. We started off with no architect, no civil engineers, no contractors. Every single meeting, we got things knocked off. I think we applied a very good strategy to keep this thing on track.
“It was a big team effort,” Shapiro said. “It was the result of a hundreds and thousands of man-hours, and I am thankful for everyone who has helped get us this far.”
There are four parts to phase 1A. Schematic design of the roads, infrastructure and buildings for the initial phase is due by March 2015, with site permitting following the next month and design development coming in May. Construction is expected to be completed by December 2015. Along with the first buildings — which include two 20,000 square foot soundstages and a 20,000 square foot office edifice — the studio wants to put in a recreation area, starting with two soccer fields.
A road, about 4,900 feet long, from Old River Road to the recreation park entrance will be built. Wastewater needs on the first phase will be handled by a septic system, to be built by the developer.
Phase 1B is set for a December 2016 completion and the remaining three phases are projected to be completed by December 2020.
“If there are any constants in construction,” Shapiro said, “there are always delays and at some point there may be, possibly, a change order.”
The development schedule is the last document for the IDA to approve. A supplemental agreement and master plan previously were approved.
“This is the last thing before the end of the year we have to approve with this project — thank goodness,” Henry said.
Effingham IDA members approved the development schedule, with six members voting in favor and one abstaining. Another member was not present at the meeting.
Dick Knowlton, who abstained from the vote, voiced his concerns on a lack of information about the incentives package and a thorough vetting of the studio leadership.
Knowlton wanted to know if the incentives were in line with those of similar projects in the Southeast and asked for a third-party analysis of the studio to see “if they are who they say they are, and if they have the capacity to create the financing to do the deal,” he said.
Moon River is planning to build what is being billed as the largest movie production facility in the U.S. on about 1,550 acres off the juncture of Old River Road and Interstate 16. The studio has moved its offices to Rincon as work commences on the site.
“We appreciate all of the support from Gov. Nathan Deal, Effingham County, and our dream team of professionals,” Shapiro said. “We also greatly appreciate the pro-business environment in the state of Georgia and we are proud to have chosen Coastal Georgia to be our home.”
The initial DRI was submitted Sept. 2, and additional information was sent to the CRC on Oct. 20.
“I am very thankful to the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority and the Effingham County Commission,” Shapiro said. “This new management team completed in four months what could have taken years anywhere else. The approval of the development of regional impact study is a major milestone in getting all of the requisite approvals in place for construction of the studioplex.”