City closes on purchase of 104 acres, company to develop and manage the complex

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The city closed on the purchase of 104 acres of land near the Southfield and I-94 freeways Thursday.

City officials are hailing the move as a critical step needed to establish Unity Studios and Village and other entertainment-related businesses on the site.

Long-term general obligation bonds for $25.3 million, along with Wayne County-issued recovery zone bonds in the amount of $3 million, were sold Oct. 27 to finance the land purchase. The bonds, which officials said received a solid investment grade credit rating, sold in less than a minute.

With the land and buildings now owned by the city, “tenant leasing and property development can commence full speed ahead,” Mayor Gary Burtka said.

“While this project has not moved as quickly as we had initially planned for a variety of reasons, it is moving forward,” he said. “Certainly the financial market, economic conditions and discussion in Lansing about making legislative changes to the film credit were key factors in the delay, to name a few.”

The bonds were purchased by PNC Financial Services Group Inc. In addition, the city has selected Southfield-based REDICO LLC to develop and manage the site. The company will work closely with city administration to implement the site’s master development plan.

REDICO was one of many property developers and managers considered for the project. After six months of analysis, the council on Sept. 8 authorized negotiations with REDICO.

Members unanimously approved the terms of the master developer agreement and management agreement with REDICO on Sept. 29. Awaiting successful completion of several benchmarks, the final contract was executed on Nov. 10.

City officials say one of REDICO’s primary goals will be to develop the property with an eye toward attracting other businesses to the site.

“Unity Studios, along with the other existing tenants, is obviously the centerpiece of this development,” Burtka said, “but our goal is to attract a number of other strategically targeted businesses to the site to create a world-class entertainment industry complex.”

REDICO developed, owns and manages Independence Marketplace at Outer Drive and Southfield.

Unity Studios is majority owned and operated by a group of investors from Los Angeles and Michigan, including veteran Hollywood executive Jimmy Lifton.

Originally from Southfield, Lifton has been in the entertainment business for 30 years. He has owned an internationally distributed record label, produced 13 feature films and is principal of one of the largest independent post‐production audio studios in Los Angeles, Oracle Post.

Some of the most famous and familiar TV and film industry giants use Oracle Post including Fox, HBO, NBC, ABC, Disney, Nickelodeon, Paramount, Lionsgate, Universal, Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, VH1 and MTV.

Located on studio grounds, the Lifton Institute for Media Skills is in the process of one of implementing the largest retraining programs in Michigan. Classes began at the Institute on Oct. 26.