Toronto stands by its studio plans

Construction site rested on contaminated soil

TORONTO — Representatives for the city of Toronto say they’re sticking fast with their plans to build a studio development in the heart of the city, despite the withdrawal of the project’s developer late last week and the presence of a competitor that is in the process of converting an old power plant into a studio nearby.

“Our commitment to seeing the film media complex built in the Portlands remains solid,” said Jeff Steiner, president and CEO of the Toronto Economic Development Corporation in a statement. “TEDCO has already received expressions of interest from a variety of parties and we look forward to the outcome of the upcoming RFP process.”

Out of Sequence

Late last week Sequence Development group of San Diego and Toronto withdrew from what was known as the Portlands Project, because the commercial tenants and financing on which the project depended had not materialized. A C$150 million ($103 million), 1.25 million square foot studio development, the Portlands deal was signed in February 2002 in partnership with TEDCO, HOK Architects, Toronto-based Shoot City, and Pinewood-Shepperton Studios UK.

The deal was fraught with difficulties, however, (Variety Nov. 11, 2002), not least of which was soil contamination, and then an announcement in October from the province of Ontario of a competing facility of a similar scale called the Great Lakes Studios Project, fronted by Studios of America prexy and CEO Paul Vaughan and Paul Bronfman, one of the partners behind Vancouver’s North Shore Studios and Cine Cite Montreal, located at the former R.L. Hearn Generating Plant on Ontario Hydro land nearby.

Steiner told Daily Variety that the unlike the Great Lakes Studios Project, the Portlands development will be all new. “As opposed to converting space, this will all be built from the ground up. But we’ll have a new process to find a new investor-developer for the project.”

TEDCO pointed to the city of Toronto’s newly approved waterfront development plan as “an extremely positive step, which will help us appeal to a broader range of potential partners, investors and consortia.” TEDCO has retained Los Angeles-based Economic Research Associates as advisers and commercial real estate specialists J.J. Barnicke Insignia to help it move forward.

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