Pinewood Studios equals major economic benefits

There was a flurry of potential development discussion Feb. 22 at the Fayetteville City Council’s annual retreat.

Fayette County Development Authority CEO Matt Forshee made a brief presentation on the Pinewood Studios Group and the plans for the Project Stargate film and television studio facility planned for a 288-acre tract on Sandy Creek Road northwest of Fayetteville.

As for Pinewood’s entree into the United States by way of Fayette County, Forshee said the studio’s goal is to start with a small studio and grow it bigger than anything existing today in metro Atlanta.

“This project is evolving,” Forshee said.

Forshee noted that the previously announced Phase 1 of the studio project is expected to come in several parts. While the overall Phase 1 would bring approximately a half-million square feet of sound stage, workshop and office space, Forshee told council members the initial plans for the first phase includes nine buildings.

Those include five sound stages, two studio workshops and two additional buildings that would serve as office space, a cantina and other workshop areas.

As for the placement of the facility on the 288-acre site, Forshee said the buildings would be situated in an area with lower elevation so that, even at a height of 65 feet, the sound stage buildings would not be seen from Sandy Creek Road.

The continued development of the remainder of Phase 1 depends on the business growth experienced by Pinewood at its new Fayette County location, Forshee said.

Forshee also noted the general economic impact that could be realized through the first five years of operation.

“The numbers after five years are strictly conceptual based on a timeline that is highly in flux and dependent upon the actual phase-in of the project,” Forshee said. “These numbers were run by the Fayette County Development Authority based on Georgia Tech’s LOCI (Local Impact) software.”

The calculations through the first five years project the potential for $97 million in construction and $95 million in operations costs.

In order to cement its presence in Fayette County, the Project Stargate development must clear several hurdles. The property in unincorporated Fayette County must be rezoned and then potentially annexed into Fayetteville where sewer services would be available.

Rezoning in the city would also have to occur, likely as a Planned Community Development (PCD). It was noted at the retreat that the goal is to have the studio operational in January 2014.

Once operational, said Forshee, the Pinewood site will begin to make additional contributions to the local economy.

“I see it like the Kia (facility). They are a final assembly site. Pinewood is a final assembly site,” Forshee said, noting that other businesses such as those supplying cameras, lighting, building materials and others could be located on the property or in the general area. Kia manufactures automobiles near LaGrange in west Georgia.

In addition to its three studio locations in Great Britain, Pinewood operates facilities in Toronto, Berlin/Hamburg, the Dominican Republic and Malaysia. Forshee said Pinewood is also expanding its existing British facilities.