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Plans unveiled for new Hudson River Studios.

Calling it a wonder of urban geology that will meet the growing demand for production studios being made on the Big Apple, New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani last week unveiled plans for a new $120 million television and film production complex - Hudson River Studios (HRS) - whose state-of-the-art technology and amenities will "rival or surpass most of its West Coast counterparts."

Hudson River Studios will be the only production/post-production complex in Manhattan equipped with digital and high definition television capabilities, according to its developers. It will contain production studios, post-production edit suites, a set construction shop, dressing rooms, warehousing, storage space and production offices, and will be constructed on top of the St. John's Center building at Houston and West Streets in Manhattan's SoHo district. With five studios ranging in size from 12,500 to 18,300 square feet, Hudson River Studios will immediately bolster the City's ability to handle the production demands being made by the television and film industries, the developers say.

Procter & Gamble Productions' long-running daytime dramas, "As the World Turns" and "Guiding Light," will serve as anchor tenants of the new facility. TeleVest, which oversees the production of the programs, has signed an agreement with HRS on behalf of P&G Productions to use 40 percent of the total studio space to produce its New York-based dramas.

ULLICO (United Labor Life Insurance Company) is providing the mortgage financing for the project, which represents the City's first major studio construction in decades. The facility stands to create hundreds of construction jobs and 500 to 600 permanent union jobs. Construction will begin in the fall, with the projected opening a little more than a year away.

"Hudson River Studios will play a major role in helping to expand New York City's growing television and film industries," Mayor Giuliani said at a City Hall press conference on July 10th. "Much of our economic success over the past few years has been the result of private-sector job growth, to which the film and television industries have contributed significantly. For the fourth consecutive year, direct expenditures from the production of films, television series and specials, commercials and music videos in New York City continued to grow at record levels. In 1997, direct expenditures totaled $2.37 billion, compared to $2.23 billion recorded in 1996."

"This unprecedented growth of film and television production in New York City strengthens our position as the Entertainment Capital of the World," the Mayor said. "I want to thank ULLICO and its member unions for investing their resources and creating new jobs in the City."

Ronald Picket of Hudson River Productions LLC, the project developer, said Hudson River Studios is a solid investment because it will create jobs on both a permanent and short-term level. "This is an investment in real jobs and in economic growth. It is the type of partnership opportunity between labor and business that will help continue to fuel our economy and keep people working in well-paid, highly-skilled union jobs."

While New York City's television and film industry was buoyed last year by the filming of more than 105 television shows, over 200 movies and 4,000 commercials resulting in a fourth-consecutive record-breaking year - the City's Office of Film & Television was unable to meet the demand for studio space.

Hudson River Studios President Richard Benowitz said, "The acute need for new studios, coupled with the complete package of production and post-production related facilities and services - including the most advanced, state-of-the-art technology in digital and high definition TV - positions Hudson River Studios to immediately satisfy the needs of production companies, program suppliers and advertising agencies. Their desire to do more production in New York has been impeded by the inability of the supply to meet the demand. HRS will meet this demand."

Benowitz revealed that he is engaged in serious discussions with film production companies, TV networks and agencies in New York and Los Angeles about leasing studios. "Production companies and television program suppliers just need to bring the creative people - Hudson River Studios will provide the state-of-the-art technology, facilities, engineers, technicians and other professionals," Benowitz said.

Added Phil Dixson, senior vice president and managing director of TeleVest, "we're looking forward to putting two of our daytime programs together in the same facility. Hudson River Studios' state-of-the-art technology will create many efficiencies in terms of operations and budget, thus making for better programs. I know that all of the talent, producers and support staff are excited about the new facility and about working with the HRS team."

In addition to offering the most advanced technology in production and post-production facilities, Hudson River Studios will be outfitted with an on-site care, an exercise training center, a children's play area and creative suites for producers, directors, writers and talent.

Picket of Hudson River Productions said Hudson River Studios is a perfect fit, not only for New York City, but for the SoHo district where it will be constructed. "This is already a community steeped in the performing arts. SoHo has the potential of becoming the television and film production center of New York and the East Coast. The project will reinforce the manufacturing base of the area and bring economic benefits by way of jobs, revenue, additional service providers and improved infrastructure."

Commented Bice Wilson, of Meridian Design Associates, the architectural firm of the project whose credits include the Ed Sullivan Theater and Martha Stewart Studios, "St. John's Center is a unique building. We are joining the past with the present. Our design for HRS expresses the archeological layering of the Information Age city on top of an industrial age structure. The television and movie industries in New York are often accustomed to working in adoptive-reuse existing structures, such as converted barns, bakeries and other former manufacturing sites. By starting from scratch, Hudson River Studios presents a cost-effective facility designed to accommodate the needs of the industry, while providing the most advanced, state-of-the-art technology. This building will immediately become the destination of choice for production and post-production companies."

This latest announcement comes on the heels of a previous plan announced by a firm called New York Studios, Inc. to lease a 15-acre site at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to develop a $160 million, fully-enclosed high-tech film and television studio and post-production facilities. Developers of this planned 700,000 square-foot facility have yet to announce financing plans or tenants, but have entered into a 70-year lease with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jul 15, 1998
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