Jacoby Development plans to begin work in April to convert the under-used OFS site in Norcross to the Atlanta Media Campus, with plans for seven sound stages and the largest movie studio lot in Georgia. It is located along Interstate 85 at Jimmy Carter Boulevard.
NORCROSS — Georgia’s largest movie studio could open by this summer in Gwinnett, transforming the Jimmy Carter Boulevard corridor.
Just months before they close on a deal to retrofit much of the OFS site along Interstate 85, officials with Jacoby Development talked to Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District leaders Thursday about the plans that will bring $1 billion in investment.
Company President Scott Condra said the first phase — opening up seven sound stages in a building once used to manufacture fiber optic cables — could be complete three to six months after the April closing with OFS.
While the company plans to continue operations on a portion of the site, Jacoby’s plans for the development of the remaining 125 acres means Gwinnett will soon be home to the fourth largest studio lot in the nation, Condra said. He said Hollywood producers are already in talks about making the studio home base for $100 million-plus productions, and an announcement will be made in the coming weeks about a Los Angeles company managing the venture.
“This is what we have planned on since we started the CID. You talk about a catalyst project; this is it,” CID Director Chuck Warbington said, after the business organization’s board members talked about the hundreds of people who would be employed on the sets and the potential of high-end restaurants housing and businesses that could surround the venture. “The economic impact it would bring back to the corridor is more than I ever envisioned.”
With plans for a film school and some housing on the site, Condra talked about high-rise office buildings and a five-star hotel also planned for the project, which he described as an environmentally friendly “upcycling” venture.
“Gwinnett doesn’t really have a Galleria, and that’s what this could be,” developer Jim Jacoby, the company founder, said.
Since a state tax credit began drawing the entertainment industry, Georgia has been the site of many filming locations, including “Wanderlust,” “Identity Thief,” “Flight,” “Due Date” and “Last Vegas” in Gwinnett, as well as the upcoming movies “The Good Lie,” “The Familymoon” and “Dumb and Dumber To” expected to come out this year. On Friday, a crew from AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” will be shooting in Snellville.
In fact, as the OFS/Jacoby deal has taken shape, crews have been shooting the Fast & Furious 7 at the Norcross site, although filming has been on hold since the death of star Paul Walker.
Jacoby told the crowd that stars often choose the location of movies, adding that Adam Sandler previously would only agree to shoot in California and Hawaii before his work on “The Familymoon” around Lake Lanier.
Condra said many of movie stars would likely want to stay in luxury hotels in Atlanta, so the studio’s access to Interstate 85 is key. But he is in talks with Gwinnett County to possibly relocate a police precinct to make room for a luxury hotel to be included at the site. The studio will provide jobs at every income level, he added, from the stars to the grips, caterers and cleaning crew.
As developers of Atlantic Station, which revived East Atlanta, Jacoby leaders said they have the same hope for the Jimmy Carter area, where infrastructure improvements will also be funded through tax allocation districts.
That was good to hear for business owners like CID Board Chairman Shiv Aggarwal.
“I think the three-mile radius (around the project) is going to turn around from Buford Highway to Lawrenceville Highway,” said Aggarwal, the owner of Global Mall. “By 2018, we can celebrate a lot of things. I’m looking forward to it.”