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CHICAGO-Construction of a 183,000-sf state-of-the-art film and television production facility in North Lawndale could begin by the end of the year, with the five sound stages ready for film crews in early 2006. Central City Studios is building the $43.7-million facility is being built on a 12.7-acre site in the 4300 block of W. Roosevelt Road once used for illegal dumping of debris.

The project already has been earmarked for $10.5 million in tax increment financing assistance, which was briefly questioned by 42nd Ward Alderman Burton Natarus before the planned development was endorsed by the plan commission Thursday. However, Steve Patterson of the department of planning and development notes the city-owned site generates no property tax revenue now, has been vacant for several years and its redevelopment will keep filming operations in the city, rather than locales outside the US such as Toronto.

“This will strengthen a segment of the economy that has been struggling for several years,” Patterson says.

Central City Studios is paying $1.1 million for the site, its appraised value. The facility will be managed by Santa Monica, CA-based Raleigh Enterprises. Steven Allison of Central City Studios adds the project should be a catalyst for additional development in the North Lawndale community, bring 1,250 jobs to the neighborhood, with many of them going to local residents.

Financing is in place for the project, Allison adds. 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 Raleigh Enterprises.

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