A California entertainment company wants to build a $68.9 million television and film studio in Schenectady, and thinks the former home of the American Locomotive Company is the place to put it.
If Santa Monica-based Pacifica Ventures gets its way, 10 acres of the 60-acre site along the Mohawk River would be set aside for 200,000 square feet of studio and event space and five 70-foot-high soundstages. About 1,000 new jobs would be created, with 200 to 500 of them being full-time positions.
“The company considered sites in numerous locations across New York, but was really attracted to the Alco site because it’s a shovel-ready site ready for development,” said Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen. “We’ve been working very hard to get it ready for development, and it’s a beautiful site on the river for a company that wanted to be upstate.”
Pacifica Ventures has applied for $15 million in Empire State Development grant funds through the Capital Region Economic Development Council, according to a council progress report released Tuesday. The proposal has been dubbed Mohawk River Studios.
Pacifica Ventures develops soundstages and operates filming and production facilities for television shows and movies by major Hollywood studios and independent producers alike. It was drawn to Schenectady, said Gillen, because of New York’s film incentive programs. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the expansion of the New York State Film Production Tax Credit program, which offers incentives that lower the costs of production and post-production and has worked to promote upstate New York as a place to locate or do location filming.
The company first met with Metroplex and city officials last summer, said Gillen. It soon found the Alco site had attractions beyond being located in upstate New York.
Rotterdam developer the Galesi Group has been working with city and county officials for several years to redevelop the 60-acre site sandwiched between Erie Boulevard and the river. The former brownfield has undergone extensive environmental remediation and infrastructure work and is nearly ready for shovels to hit the ground. So far, a hotel, residences, office and retail space, a bike path and a marina are in various stages of planning at the site.
“Mohawk River Studios, and the entire planned development of which it will be part, will be a model of sustainable design, an invaluable addition to the region’s targeted 21st century infrastructure and a strong stimulator of economic growth,” read a project overview in the Capital Region Economic Development Council’s report.
Studio officials plan to leverage existing community partnerships once production begins. They hope to work with higher education institutions such as Schenectady County Community College, Union College and the University at Albany on internships and other educational experiences in entertainment, technology and more.
The studio itself would be part film and television studio, part tour and event center. It would include five purpose-built, 20,000-square-foot soundstages and space for set construction, costumes, makeup, lighting and grips, visual effects and post-production, as well as the fiber optic infrastructure that can connect visual effects artists with their colleagues around the world.
Gillen said Metroplex submitted multiple proposals for the Alco site to the regional council, including ideas for a harbor and other waterfront amenities. Until last summer, though, he never expected a movie studio might be part of redevelopment plans.
“A lot of us probably had the same reaction about the nanotech industry when it first came here,” he said. “But the governor and others have really led this effort to make New York a center for the film industry, and they are looking at sites outside of New York City now. It’s very preliminary, but these are the kinds of things that happen when you have a shovel-ready site.”