Seeking to take advantage of recently enacted state tax credits, a Center City lawyer and developer told Chester Upland School District officials last night that he wanted to build a $90 million film studio on a 33-acre site in Chester Township, Delaware County.
Jeffrey Rotwitt, who said he is working with Pacifica Ventures of Santa Monica, Calif., on the project, told a meeting of the school board that he planned to build close to 300,000 square feet of production facilities and offices, plus a museum and entertainment facility, on the site of the Tri State Sports facility, the former Sun Center.
Rotwitt said he was one of the owners of the Tri State complex on Concord Road, which is used for recreation and fitness programs including basketball, lacrosse, indoor soccer and roller hockey.
He said he was counting on $10 million in state aid, $1 million from Delaware County government, and $13 million in bonds financed by tax payments that the county, township and school district would agree to forgo over the next 20 years if they agreed to help underwrite the project. The rest of the money would come from investors, he said.
Sites had been considered in Bucks County and Philadelphia, he said.
The project is attractive to filmmakers, he said, because of legislation passed this year that provides $75 million in credits to offset taxes incurred by producers making movies, TV shows and commercials. Another studio is proposed for the Logan Square Shopping Center in Norristown.
Rotwitt said he hoped to get approvals for the tax financing by the end of this year. If he does, he said, he would file a land-development plan in January, with the aim of beginning construction in April.
School district approval, required for the $13 million in county, township, and school district tax financing to be provided, is not assured, said Marc Woolley, chairman of the financially strapped district's governing board. Discussions are planned for today, and Chester Upland would need sizable incentives before it could approve the project, Woolley said.
Economic development that involves giving up future tax revenues, he said, "cannot come on the backs of the kids of the district. They have to enjoy the benefits of the new emergence."