By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Studio, IDA close to finishing deal
Placeholder Image

The master plan, development schedule and supplemental agreement between Moon River Studios and the Effingham Industrial Development Authority could be approved as soon as Thursday evening.

Representatives from Moon River and the IDA met last Thursday night in a workshop to discuss the outstanding issues on the deal between the studios and the IDA.

“You can see this is a real partnership now,” said Moon River Studios CEO Jake Shapiro. “We’ve worked hard on all sides. We’re very proud of it. We left (Thursday) night thrilled and very happy. In just four months, we’ve accomplished a great deal.”

IDA officials also were optimistic the supplemental agreement to the memorandum of understanding will be approved this Thursday.

“We’re very close,” said IDA Chairman Dennis Webb. “The master plan is ready to go. It looks good. The development schedule looks reasonable.”

A request for comments has been made on Moon River’s development of regional impact application.

“The DRI is a huge element of this,” Shapiro said. “But we hired the right people. We’re lucky to have such great, great people. We’re on the schedule for approval in mid-November, and that’s a big turning point for us.”

IDA CEO John Henry also said the two groups are close to finishing the paperwork for the 1,560-acre tract where Moon River expects to build the largest movie studio complex in the U.S.

“It will all make sense when we can pull it all together,” Henry said. “This is a massive project. There is a lot to digest.”

There could be one complication that both sides hope can be resolved, given time. The IDA’s bond lease prohibits the land from being put up as collateral, but the parcel to be used as phase 1A of the project could be pulled out of the bond. Henry said attorney Dan McRae advised the IDA needed that clause to protect its interests.

“There may be a workaround,” Henry said.

Added Webb: “We think there’s an answer for it. It’s just going to take the attorneys time to do it.”

The first phase includes the permanent studio offices — Moon River has set up shop just outside of Rincon — and its first four soundstages. Shapiro has said the studio hopes to start building those facilities as early as January.

Once finished, the entire project is pegged to represent an investment of at least $90 million.

As part of the proposed revised development schedule, Moon River plans to have its initial part of the first phase done by December 2015. The remaining portion of the first phase is set for a December 2016 finish. The final phase, which consists primarily of back lots, is scheduled to be finished in December 2020.

The first phase, broken out into two segments, includes the access road, the first soundstages and the studio office. It also is expected to include tennis courts, baseball diamonds and soccer fields for community use.

Future phases may include back lots, office parks and room for a 20,000-seat amphitheater.

Shapiro also said the studio’s initial average salary projections have “gone up significantly.” He also noted that Henry pointed out the studio has delivered everything on its punch list.

“Every (promise) we’ve made, we’ve delivered, and we’ll continue to do so,” Shapiro said. “We’ve built a great team here and they have worked very hard at.”