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CHICAGO-An infamous 11-acre dumpsite will become a 182,900-sf state-of-the-art movie and television production studio with five sound stages. The $45-million Central City Studios is getting $10.5 million in tax increment financing, endorsed Tuesday by the community development commission, and will buy the brownfield site in the 4300 block of W. Roosevelt Road for its appraised value of $1.1 million.

About 600,000 cubic yards of debris was dumped illegally on the North Lawndale property in the 1990s, and remediation took two years. Six aldermen were among 18 public officials convicted in “Operation Silver Shovel,” considered one of the most extensive corruption probes in Chicago history by the local FBI office. “The redevelopment story is worthy of a movie script itself,” says Department of Planning and Development commissioner Denise Casalino.

In addition to tax increment financing, Central City Studios, LLC is getting $25 million in Empowerment Zone bonds through the Illinois Finance Authority as well as a $2.5-million state grant. A tax-credit deal will generate about half of the $6.9 million in equity, with the other half coming from Santa Monica, CA-based Raleigh Enterprises, which will manage the film studios.

Although some community development commission members were skeptical of the studios’ ability to draw tenants, who can rent a sound stage or series of stages for several days to several months, developers got a feasibility study from Deloitte & Touche before going ahead with the proposal. In addition, Raleigh Enterprises is already working on two movies being filmed on location.

“The studios offer unique opportunities that you haven’t seen before,” says Rick Nelson of Raleigh Enterprises, who spent 25 years working for Paramount Pictures–one company that already has expressed interest in the North Lawndale sound stage. “What we’re trying to do here is create an opportunity.”

The city and state have aggressively courted Hollywood for movie productions, landing such films as “Barbershop” and its sequel. However, more favorable tax climates have drawn film producers to Canada. “They go to Canada because of the economics,” Nelson says.

The city expects Central City Studios to pump $94 million a year into the local economy and employ more than 1,000.

The development team includes Donald Jackson, who proposed a $147-million sound stage project in 1999. However, he was unable to get financing for a project that large.

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