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Studio ready to dig in with project
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With the anticipated closing of the deal between Medient Studios and the Effingham Industrial Development Authority less than two weeks away, the first steps of work on the 1,550-acre site are under way, according to the company.

The IDA’s property committee has permitted some construction on the site, and the studios have begun engineering, clearing and grading. Once built, the studio complex will be the largest of its kind in the U.S.

"It is great to finally be at a point where we can anticipate movement on this project," IDA CEO John Henry said. "Everything has been falling into place. It is exciting to be able finally to start on this long-awaited endeavor. Allowing them to move forward with their grading and clearing gives them a head-start on getting everything in place that will have to be done to ultimately begin construction on the movie studios."

The IDA and Medient are expected to enter into a 20-year lease for the property, which is the northern tract of the IDA’s I-16 holdings. The IDA also will provide $1.25 million in site development, and Medient will receive a $3 million grant from the state, with the grant proceeds dispensed as the company reaches various employment benchmarks.

Medient’s development schedule calls for building construction to start within the next three months and the completion of the main studio by next summer. Medient hopes to have the studioplex operational by the first quarter of 2014.

"Our construction plan involves multiple parallel paths to minimize the amount of time to being able to shoot movies on campus," Manoj Koshy, the studio’s president of infrastructure, said in a release. "We have incorporated the latest technologies in modular construction, and non-conventional energy sources to build the studioplex at the fastest pace with the least environmental impact possible."

Along with the movie studio, Medient also will be building DVD and video game production facilities. The entire campus also includes hotels, shopping and entertainment venues for the public and on-site housing for studio workers.

According to the memorandum of understanding signed in March, the company will make a $90 million investment and lead to 1,000 jobs in the community.

"The focus is on the engineering tasks required to get the site ‘construction ready’ by November," said Chance Raehn, principal with Integrated Science and Engineering, Inc.

Also expected to start soon are the development of regional impact studies, along with traffic studies, topography surveys of the public areas and roads, boundary surveys, geotechnical work and civil design, Raehn added.