Castlepoint to proceed with Toronto studio site


TORONTO -- Despite the lack of a green light from partner Pinewood Studios Group, Toronto real estate developer Castlepoint Development plans to move ahead with demolition and environmental clean-up work on a downtown Toronto site slated to be a six-soundstage movie studio.

Alfredo Romano, a principal of Castlepoint Development, told a meeting of downtown residents Tuesday night that his company and Pinewood continue to do due dilligence to establish whether a studio complex in Toronto's west end "makes economic sense."

Castlepoint Development bought the 7.5 acre plot in downtown Toronto last year, and established a 50-50 partnership with U.K.-based Pinewood to possibly open a studio for big-budget movie shoots.

The downtown property already is zoned for commercial/industrial use, so Castlepoint faces no major planning issues with the city of Toronto.

But Romano indicated that financing the proposed complex remains an obstacle as he continues discussions with Pinewood ahead of ratification by the British studio group's board.

The proposed complex will include a purpose-built 100,000 square foot, six-soundstage studio that adjoins an existing 100,000 square foot, 10-story historic brickwork building that dates back to 1919.

Romano said that extensive demolition and clean-up work is required before construction of new buildings and soundstages can start.

Without getting into specificis, Romano said that, should Pinewood back out of the proposed studio deal as an equity partner, he will press ahead with the redevelopment with an eye to renting out space to high-tech design, graphic arts and new media companies.

"If they (Pinewood) don't come, my plan doesn't change. I'm still going to bring in commercial businesses," he said.

Castlepoint and Pinewood's proposed six soundstages aim to complement seven new soundstages already under construction on the city's waterfront by Toronto Film Studios.

That FilmPort complex is expected to open its doors in March. No firm bookings have yet been announced for FilmPort by the Toronto Film Studios.

In 2004, Romano and Pinewood lost out to Toronto Film Studios in a bid to build a studio complex on the city's waterfront, where Castlepoint is a major land-owner and developer.

Pinewood has long eyed a Toronto megastudio as a possible beachead into the North American studio market, according to Romano.

Both FilmPort and the proposed Castlepoint/Pinewood complex aim to snag big-budget Hollywood movie shoots that in recent years have gone to Montreal, Vancouver or elsewhere.

The proposed Castlepoint/Pinewood studio will have soundstages in the 10,000- to 25,000-square foot range, with adjoining office and workshop space.

In all, the complex would include about 270,000 square feet of refurbished or new building space, and supply approximately 1,000 permanent jobs and up to another 1,000 support positions.

The city of Toronto has designated the downtown Toronto site an economic improvement area, and has promised Castlepoint tax breaks over a 10-year period if it goes ahead with the redevelopment.