If we build it, they will come; Tinseltown talking about studio complex, developments

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Michael Donofrio, Allen Park Economic Development director and Interim DDA director, at the March 25 DDA Board meeting.

‘We get the sound stage and we get the studio. We get the studio and we get the development.’
—Michael Donofrio, economic development director and interim Downtown Development Authority director

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – Officials say the city is drawing a lot of attention in Hollywood these days.

Michael Donofrio, the city’s economic development director and interim Downtown Development Authority director, said March 25 at the DDA board meeting that movie industry officials he has talked to are interested in Allen Park’s recent efforts to lure filmmakers to the site near City Hall where Unity Studios and the Lifton Institute for Media Skills have located.

“We’re getting a lot of attention out in L.A. about Allen Park,” Donofrio said. “Everybody knows Allen Park. They’re not sure where it is or what it is, but they know Allen Park. And they want to know more about it.”

He went on to emphasize the importance of building a sound stage at the complex for use by filmmakers and institute.

“That’s … the main target, making sure that the sound stage is there,” Donofrio said. “We get the sound stage and we get the studio. We get the studio and we get the development. So that’s the process.”

Donofrio said would-be investors in projects at the site want to see something happening.

What soon will be happening, he said, is an arched central entrance to the studio complex, which also will house classrooms of Stautzenberger College. The entrance will be built at Enterprise Drive and will be far enough into the property that it wouldn’t cause traffic backups, he said, but not so far that it will be hidden from passing motorists.

Officials of Real Estate Development and Investment Co., which is developing the site, are taking a realistic, phased approach to the project, according to Kenneth Till, the company’s vice president of acquisitions and development.

“One of the things that we’re focusing on immediately is giving a presence to the entrance,” he said. They also plan to fix some traffic issues with the property as well.

Developers intend to keep the former Visteon facility in place. Also known as the 600 building, it also houses the Stautzenberger classrooms.

“It’s really exciting,” Till said. “I was at their grand opening, so it’s great to see that in place.”

He said Roush Enterprises Inc., 16640 Southfield, still occupies a considerable part of the 600 building. Company officials still are deciding how they want to develop the rest of the property, which includes an unfinished structure known as the 160 building.

“Our focus was really twofold,” Till said. “We want a mixed use development that would focus on the entertainment and media uses. That’s what (city officials are) talking about when they’re out in L.A.

Institute President Jimmy Lifton has that as his vision for the property, Till said, but developers also want to incorporate other amenities and uses that can support existing activities and uses on the site with an eye toward the city’s long-term plans.

Retail uses could include restaurants and different types of stores. A large commercial development parcel could have entertainment uses and restaurants.

Till said additional sound stages could be built in the 600 and 160 buildings. Developers also are looking at the potential for a hotel on the site that would be visible from I-94, as well as extended stay facilities for production workers.

“They’re going to want some place to stay that’s close and convenient to the stages and other production offices on the studio property,” Till said.

Donofrio reiterated that a sound stage is key to defining the studio in order for it to serve as a development anchor, and officials are committed to building a top-of-the-line stage that will command potential moviemakers’ attention and result in referrals.

“Your reputation is going to be really determined on what their experience is going to be up front,” he said. “We want that to be a good thing … that they go back and brag about.”