Pinewood ready to add five more sound stages
These heavy earth-moving machines sit ready to make room for more sound stages and support buildings on the Pinewood Atlanta Studios campus in western Fayetteville. (Staff photo by Danny Harrison)

Pinewood ready to add five more sound stages

These heavy earth-moving machines sit ready to make room for more sound stages and support buildings on the Pinewood Atlanta Studios campus in western Fayetteville. (Staff photo by Danny Harrison)
These heavy earth-moving machines sit ready to make room for more sound stages and support buildings on the Pinewood Atlanta Studios campus in western Fayetteville. (Staff photo by Danny Harrison)

Already, Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayetteville has built six sound stages totaling 118,000 square feet, which, according to its Web site, is supported by 300,000 square feet of production facilities. That was Phase One.

Phase Two is now under way, and according to local government officials five more sound stages have been permitted and will be built in this phase of development. According to Fayetteville Mayor Greg Clifton, those five sound stages were permitted just before a county-city intergovernmental agreement expired, and it was actually the county government that issued the permits and will conduct inspections on those buildings through completion.

The Phase Two support buildings, including any additional workshops and production space, will be permitted by City of Fayetteville, who would then be carrying out those inspections. So even though the entire 288-acre Pinewood Studios Atlanta campus has already been annexed into the city, county and city inspectors will be essentially working side by side to see the studio company through its second phase.

It has been widely reported that Pinewood expects to eventually have 31 sound stages on the built-out studio campus, plus support buildings and developed and undeveloped backlot space.

One question raised in recent weeks is whether or not Pinewood Atlanta Studios, which is primarily owned by the Cathy Family of Chick-fil-A fame, will seek another tax abatement for future development on the studio campus.

Already, the Fayette County Development Authority issued a 20-year bond for up to $45 million so that Pinewood Atlanta Studios could enjoy a 20-year tax abatement incentive, a practice that is common in Georgia counties through state-initiated development authorities. Basically, while in this case Synovus Bank is the lender to Pinewood Atlanta Studios directly, Fayette County Development Authority holds the title to the land, and every year it gives five percent equity to Pinewood Atlanta Studios.

The studio company only pays taxes on the equity it owns, which amounted to five percent for the 2014 property tax bill, and development authorities are exempt from paying taxes.

According to Attorney Nathan Lee, who represents the Fayette County Development Authority, the initial bond and associated tax abatement incentive were only authorized for the first $45 million of the Pinewood Atlanta Studios project, which included purchasing the land and building the first buildings. Anything financed after the first $45 million, he says will not be subject to the benefits of the initial tax abatement.

In other words, once the studio company reaches a point of spending beyond $45 on building the studio campus, they will either immediately pay full property taxes on the rest of what they build or they will have to return to the Fayette County Development Authority board requesting an additional bond. It would then be up to FCDA members to decide whether to offer the additional tax abatement incentive or not. And if they did offer another bond and tax abatement on future studio development, it would be up to FCDA members to determine if the new abatement would be for 20 years or for the usual 10.

 

Danny Harrison

Danny Harrison, a 1992 Fayette High School graduate, began his journalism career with Fayette County News in 1995. After taking several leaves of absence to pursue journalism and Christian ministry opportunities, including a few out of state and overseas, he returned full-time to Fayette County News in August 2014. Harrison earned a bachelor's degree in pastoral ministry in 2009 while serving as a missionary journalist in England and Western Europe.