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WSJ: Silvercup Studios Buys Bronx Site

The Wall Street Journal’s Keiko Morris reported this week on Silvercup Studios‘ purchase of a 120,000-square-foot production facility in the Bronx, expanding the Queens studio’s operation to to a second borough.

Via the article:

Movies such as “Fort Apache, the Bronx” and “The Bonfire of the Vanities” offered up infamous depictions of the South Bronx, but the film-and-television industry soon could be looking at the area through a different lens.

Silvercup Studios, which has hosted television productions such as HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “Girls” at its Queens studios, is moving forward with a third facility in the Port Morris section of the South Bronx.

The planned 120,000-square-foot production facility at 295 Locust Ave. would help the company expand and meet growing demand, said brothers Alan andStuart Suna, who founded the company with their father, Harry, more than three decades ago.

For Bronx leaders, Silvercup’s move means their borough could begin to increase its share of the city’s film and television economy. The sector annually generates an estimated $7.1 billion in direct spending and $400 million in tax revenue, while employing 130,000 New Yorkers behind the scenes, said a spokeswoman for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

The Bronx’s share of the city’s film industry economy has been small, likely less than 5%, said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“We know the film industry in New York is booming, and we know it generates billions and billions of dollars,” Mr. Diaz said. “It creates jobs…it transforms the local area.”

The Sunas had long been attracted to the Locust Avenue building, with its 50-foot-high ceilings and easy access to subway and highway transportation. The building sits near the Mott Haven neighborhood, which has lured new residents and restaurants as well as developers Somerset Partners LLC and the Chetrit Group, which together are planning to build apartment towers in the area.

“The Bronx is experiencing its own renaissance, I don’t think [most] New Yorkers realize,” said Stuart Suna, Silvercup’s president.

Silvercup, which bought the property from Simone Development Cos. for $15 million, is investing $20 million to transform it into four production studios. With such high ceilings, it will easily accommodate two-story sets, the Sunas said.

A mezzanine portion of the building also will be extended and two floors added to the section to make room for offices and space for other functions supporting production.

The planned facility will have the capacity to service two television productions simultaneously over the year, potentially generating an average of 250 full-time positions for each production, Alan Suna said.

The Sunas had been looking for years for an expansion site. The company has a 235,000-square-foot facility at its main lot and a 200,000-square-foot complex at its east lot, both in Long Island City.

Silvercup and its competitors have grown, in part, thanks to state tax credits. In 2005, New York state listed nine facilities where film and television productions could qualify for the state industry tax credit. Today, the state lists 38 qualified production facilities in the city. One is in the Bronx, and it is mostly used for still photo shoots.

The city counts 4,000 businesses that support production throughout the five boroughs, according to the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. The challenge for production-facility owners, however, has been finding affordable space to expand.

Property has become pricey in Long Island City as developers envision apartment towers built on the neighborhood’s former industrial sites and buildings.

The average price per square foot for Long Island City industrial properties that sold for $500,000 or more was $395 in the first quarter of 2015, up almost 70% from $234 a square foot in the same period of 2013, according to Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

In the Bronx, the price per square foot for industrial property was $149 in the first quarter of 2015, a 9.6% increase from the 2013 price of $136.

Other companies are looking at the Bronx. York Studios, which has a production facility in Maspeth, Queens, bought property in the Soundview section of the Bronx and is planning a 300,000-square-foot facility, said John Battista, executive vice president of operations.

“This part of the Bronx is similar to where Long Island City was 25 to 30 years ago,” said Alan Suna, referring to the South Bronx. And, he added, “The Bronx is the land of opportunity.”

Eventually, that is what Mr. Diaz hopes others will see. In discussing the Silvercup project, he can’t help but paraphrase a bit of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”

“It’s been a long, long time coming,” he sang.

For the full article, click here.

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