Bond-Famed Movie Studio Coming to Georgia

Tue July 09, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley


Brent Scarbrough & Company Inc. photo 
Clearing and grading is currently taking place at the Pinewood Atlanta site.
Brent Scarbrough & Company Inc. photo Clearing and grading is currently taking place at the Pinewood Atlanta site.
Brent Scarbrough & Company Inc. photo 
Clearing and grading is currently taking place at the Pinewood Atlanta site. Brent Scarbrough & Company Inc. photo 
Crews have removed 100,000 cu. yds. (76,455 cu m) of dirt from the site.

The British studio known worldwide for the James Bond franchise is coming to Georgia and building a full-service film studio complex dubbed “Pinewood Atlanta” — a completely funded facility for the production of movies, television, music and video games. Pinewood Shepperton PLC and River’s Rock LLC have joined forces to create the highly anticipated facility.

“We began construction May 1 and work should be completed by the first of January, in order to book productions for the 2014 filming season,” said Rick Halbert, general partner of ProMaker Development Group executive’s team. “ProMaker Development Group and Group VI Development are partners in a joint venture for this project. ProMaker Commercial Real Estate will be handling all the transactions such as real estate purchases and tenant leasing.”

Phase one involves $30 million worth of construction. There will be five stages totaling 100,000 sq. ft. (9,290.3 sq m), with approximately 38,000 sq. ft. (3,530.3 sq m) of production offices and a 45,000 sq. ft. (4,180.6 sq m) workshop. In addition phase one includes the purchase of an 86,000 sq. ft (7,989.7 sq m) newly built elementary school that will be retro-fitted for secondary education, additional production offices and a catering company. Additionally phase one of the purpose built studio project will feature 200,000 sq. ft. (18,580.6 sq m) in workshops and service provider space. Additional growth phases will include a vocational job skills training component that will produce a qualified workforce to fill the hundreds of new jobs that will be created at the studio.

Phase two is being drafted with eight 45,000 sq. ft. (4,180.6 sq m) office warehouses totaling 360,000 sq. ft. (33445.1 sq m) for ancillary businesses such as rental, lighting and building materials.

The Pinewood project is considered a major victory for Georgia. Although Pinewood Studios has an office in Los Angeles, it opted for the southeast for its first production facility. Officials from throughout the state are applauding the deal because it puts the city of Fayetteville in the international spotlight.

Clearing and grading is currently taking place at the site. Storm pipe and slab prep work is under way. Crews must install the remaining storm drain, sewer lines and water lines to complete the underground infrastructure.

“We cleared the timber that was on site, built retention ponds and we mass excavated the area where the first five building pads are to be constructed,” said Chris West, safety director of grading contractor Brent Scarbrough & Company Inc. “We have also started installing the storm drain infrastructure for the project.

“The land used to be farm land,” said West. “The amount of top soil was massive, as farmers have tilled the land for decades. Our grading crew on site has moved 100,000 yds. of dirt, and 100,000 yds. of dirt remain that need to be moved on site. The right equipment allows us to move the maximum amount of dirt in the shortest amount of time, in order to meet the schedule and be cost-effective.”

“We are under a very strict schedule,” said Halbert. “This project will go from ’trees to keys’ in seven months. Production usually starts the pre-production work early in the year to enable filming in early spring. These buildings will be 60 plus tilt-wall construction. T&M Tilt will be the subcontractor, and we feel very confident of their capabilities. These panels will weigh over 110,000 lbs. and will require a very specialized crane and expert operators. These stages will carry at lease 70 percent of the construction components at least 55 ft. in the air with no interior columns.”

T&M Tilt is the first Georgia contractor to specialize in tilt-up construction. Concrete walls are built quickly and economically without the form work necessary for poured-in-place walls. During the two-step process, slabs of concrete are cast horizontally on the building floor slab, or separate casting slab. After attaining proper strength, they are lifted by crane and set on prepared foundations to form the exterior walls.

“The average panel constructed today probably weighs in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 lbs.,” said Michael DeLoach, owner of T&M Tilt. “The average height of a panel is probably between 40 to 45 ft. tall. These panels will, for the most part, be in excess of 50 ft. tall, and the tallest will be almost 72 ft. tall. The tallest single lift panel we have ever erected is slightly over 76 ft.

“The heaviest panel we have ever lifted weighed over 200,000 pounds,” said DeLoach. “Special cable and rigging is required because of the height. We will be using TMC Cranes. All of their operators are CCL certified.”

Halbert said the project will solidify the state’s reputation as a premiere location for movie making. The “007” connection is only one aspect.

“Pinewood Studios has been in operation for over 80 years and has filmed over 1,600 productions,” said Halbert. “This project will be a game changer in the industry here in Georgia. It will result in the first purpose-build sound stages using the newest technology. All the present stages here are retro-fitted buildings, warehouses or older stages.”

Equipment used on the project includes four Volvo 35 ton off road trucks; four Cat 621 F scrapers; two Komatsu D155 dozers; a Cat D6N dozer with GPS controls; a Komatsu PC600 excavator; a Volvo 460 excavator; a Cat 345 excavator; a Cat 815 compactor; a Cat 953 track loader; and a water truck.

Phases two and three for the Pinewood Atlanta film and entertainment complex consist of an additional 600,000 sq. ft. (55,741.8 sq m) of stages over 70 acres of additional managed back lot space, additional office and warehouse space for production companies and service providers, as well as the educational component encompassing as much as 74 acres.

Halbert said the project is also sensitive to environmental issues.

“This 288 acres has a considerable amount of wetlands, buffers, setback and a historical cemetery. Group VI has been extremely careful in making sure this project exceeds the attention necessary to make sure none of these conditions are compromised.”

As for the economic impact, the direct benefits of film production in Georgia came to nearly $3 billion in 2012. It reportedly boosted the bottom line of countless hotels, restaurants, hardware stores, lumber yards and heavy equipment rentals.

Historical Concepts LLC and Foley Design Associates Architects, Inc. were selected to design the project. The perimeter will maintain the integrity of the character of the surrounding area using landscaping, outdoor natural areas, maintaining natural wooded areas and design elements such as fencing. Veterans Parkway and Sandy Creek Road, a 10 ft. (3 m) wide multi-use path for public use was included in the landscape design.

Within the secured set areas, the buildings and surroundings will have the ability to change facades in order to meet the production companies’ changing needs. The visual seclusion of the secured set area also provides for the control of outside noises necessary for the productions. The sound stages are constructed with soundproofing materials.

“We’ve never seen the State of Georgia, county governments and city governments work together as they have for this project,” said Bill Foley, managing partner of Foley Design Associates Architects. “From a dream in February to already be in construction is amazing.”

Foley praised the educational aspect of the new studios. A training ground for interns and production crews in every aspect of the industry will be within walking distance.

“New job creation has already started,” said Foley. “Local but nationally experienced team members are all involved with the design and construction, which will multiply over the next few months, then grow as productions and services begin. The growth for the local area and Georgia is projected to have a billion dollar impact.”

An independent economic study based on Georgia Tech’s LOCI economic impact model shows as many as 3,400 jobs will be created at Pinewood Atlanta, with Phase one creating a direct financial impact of $10.4 million to Fayette County. Depending on finalization of future plans, the phase two and three annual economic impact is forecast to be as much as $378 million per year.

Ivan Dunleavy, CEO of Pinewood, said the agreement was another step forward for the Pinewood brand internationally.

“This new studio will target U.S. productions. Georgia has excellent fiscal and tax credit incentives, as well as a great crew base. With River’s Rock, we have a well resourced partner that is committed to building a first class studio facility,” said Dunleavy.

Studio developers building sound stages are not eligible for the state’s tax credit program, but the production companies are qualified. Georgia provides a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production and post-production in the state, either in a single production or on multiple projects.

River’s Rock LLC a locally based group of private investors considers the construction project a win-win prospect.

“We are tremendously excited to be creating a world class studio in the state of Georgia and are looking forward to working with Pinewood in the many years to come. The Pinewood brand is so well recognized in the global film industry, and together there is a great opportunity to build an excellent facility that will attract the very best producers,” said Jim Pace, managing partner of River’s Rock LLC.

The Fayette County Development Authority (FCDA) was involved in the project early on. The FCDA, which globally markets Fayette County as a top location for business, encourages investment and trade in the county by working with local and regional partners to bring advanced manufacturing, film and corporate headquarters to the area.

“The team behind the project is an incredible assemblage of designers, architects, engineers, developers, contractors and sub-contractors beautifully blended with local, state and national politicians from local commissioners to the state capitol,” said Halbert. “It feels good to be back to work, smelling fresh dirt churning.”