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ALBUQUERQUE-New Mexico’s largest city is about to go Hollywood. Pacifica Ventures, owner of Culver Studios in Culver City, CA, plans to develop the state’s first full-blown movie studio within the ongoing 13,000-acre, mixed-use Mesa del Sol development.

Called Albuquerque Studios, the $74-million, 500,000-sf project will encompass 50 acres and house eight sound stages, production offices and support space for motion picture and television producers, according to Linda Koffman, a partner in the real estate practice group in the Santa Monica, CA-based law office of Bryan Cave LLP which represents Pacifica Ventures. The development site at 5650 University Blvd. is about 80 minutes flying time from Los Angeles and five minutes from Albuquerque International Airport.

“We are proud to be the first major anchor to this [Mesa del Sol] development,” says Culver Studios chairman Hal Katersky. The first phase of the project broke ground last week. That 28-acre phase includes 224,000 sf of office and studio support space and two of the eight sound stages. “We should be open for business in January 2007 with completion [of the first phase] by spring 2007,” Katersky tells GlobeSt.com.

Katersky says there were no other bidders for the development site. “This was a straight real estate deal between Forest City and us,” Katersky says. Forest City Covington LLC is the master developer for Mesa del Sol. The land seller of record was Mesa Del Sol LLC, a division of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises.

“There are no comparable studio projects in Albuquerque or the US,” Katersky says. “We looked at alternative locations in Albuquerque and selected Mesa del Sol” as the best location for the studio project.

Pacifica Ventures is funding the first phase with a $58-million construction loan from Amalgamated Bank’s Ultra Construction Loan Fund, which is managed in its Washington, DC office. Commonwealth Realty Advisors Inc. of Chicago is the investment adviser for Pacifica Ventures.

According to Koffman, New Mexico provides a 25% tax rebate on all in-state spending for a film or television production. “This is a refund, not a credit,” she says. The state also offers four-year, interest-free loans of up to $15 million if state labor requirements are met. Additional state reimbursement is available for hiring qualified residents as production trainees.

The master developer for Mesa del Sol, Forest City Covington, is a joint venture between Forest City Enterprises Inc. and Covington Capital Group of Toronto. Forest City Covington plans to develop 9,000 acres of mixed-use space in the 13,000-acre Mesa del Sol development, according to its web site. Tentative development plans call for 1,400 acres of business park housing three million sf of commercial buildings; 4,400 acres for residential and retail use; 3,400 acres for open space; and 800 acres for schools and universities.

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