Studio project secures big loan

$550m deal will aid construction on Plymouth site

By Christine Legere
Boston Globe
September 25, 2009

PLYMOUTH – A team of California film executives who came to Plymouth two years ago with a plan to build the first full-fledged production studio on the East Coast announced yesterday that they have secured a $550 million loan to begin construction on Plymouth Rock Studios later this year.

Plymouth Rock Studios said Prosperity International LLC, an Orlando-based firm, has agreed to be the direct lender for the project. “This is a huge private sector vote of confidence for the industry here in Massachusetts,’’ said Nicholas Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office.

“This project is going to have a dramatic impact in the long run. It turns Massachusetts from a seasonal production state to a full-blown year-round production state. That’s a quantum leap forward.’’

According to a statement from Plymouth Rock, the studio “must provide the lender with acceptable security in the form of a bank instrument issued from a major bank’’ as a condition of the loan.

Prosperity International principal Michael Burgess said yesterday that representatives from his firm and the studio would probably make a joint announcement detailing the financial arrangements in the next week or so. “This is an extremely large project as far as Prosperity is concerned, but the funding will be provided over a period of time,’’ Burgess said.

After they get the money, Plymouth Rock Studios executives say their next step will be to purchase Waverly Oaks Golf Club, the 240-acre target site that carries a price tag of $16.5 million. The deal is set to close in November, about the same time construction on a $50 million access road to the facility will get underway. Studio construction is scheduled to begin in earnest in the spring and the studio’s executives say they are hoping to open for business in spring 2012.

Plymouth Rock has estimated the venture will create more than 2,000 high-income jobs. Plans call for the studio complex to include 14 soundstages, a 10-acre back lot, production and post-production facilities, a theater, and an “amenity village’ that could include a grocery store, pharmacies, and hair salons. Planners will provide space for a major hotel. The facility will allow producers to make movies and television shows, from start to finish, on the site, studio developers say.

“This is a seriously large deal in a terrible economy,’’ said Plymouth Rock’s real estate partner, Bill Wynne , who praised the company officials who came up with the studio plan.

Plymouth Rock has spent about $11 million on engineering studies and plans that were needed to secure local permits, as well as on material required for its 1,000-page environmental impact study. Before construction on the studio can begin, the state must sign off on the environmental impact report, which was submitted Sept. 15.

Wynne said he hopes state environmental officials will agree the company’s proposed measures for protecting the environment are sufficient and approve the report before the end of this year. That might be optimistic because the Eel River Association, a local group, has expressed concern over the proposed wastewater treatment plan. The organization says the discharge of water into the Eel River Watershed could degrade water quality. If the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs agrees with Eel River Watershed advocates, studio officials could be asked to provide more information or to adjust their treatment plan.

While the local Planning Board has already signed off on a so-called master site plan for the project, more specific information on each of its components will be required as building moves forward.

“This whole project is going to come to life in the next month,’’ Wynne said. “We obviously had to focus on the capital. Now that we have access to the money, we can start to implement the visions, goals, and dreams we’ve talked about.’’

Plymouth Rock Studios has had its share of obstacles during the last two years, starting with problems over murky titles on the 1,000 acre Plymouth property it originally targeted. The site was abandoned in summer 2008 in favor of Waverly Oaks.

Plymouth Town Meeting representatives gave the project a crucial endorsement in October 2008, approving property tax breaks as well as a zoning change necessary for studio construction. In June, the state denied $50 million in infrastructure funding, causing a delay. Robert Bliss, spokesman for the state Department of Administration and Finance, noted yesterday that the film industry is already getting “big tax credits’’ for film work done in the state.

Christine Legere can be reached at

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