Developer Jack Matthews Among Those Partnering to Build Movie, TV Studio in Cedars

For weeks we've wondered: When will Dallas get around to building an honest-to-God movie-television production facility? Because the city's filling up with shows, but production companies have scant options: Fair Park, which The Good Guys will have to adios upon its August return (fingers crossed) to make way for State Fair of Texas set-up, or the Studios at Las Colinas, which FOX's Lonestar will call home. But last night, while browsing some of the agenda items set to make the council's marathon meeting on Wednesday, I came across the answer to our query (on Page 7).

Dallas could have a studio in the Cedars very soon if the city council agrees this week to dole out $100,000 in Public/Private Partnership Program dollars to CCH Lamar Partners I L.P. (The Public/Private Partnership Program will, in fact, be amended by council on Wednesday to include a "new film/tv production component.") The facility, deemed in city documents as "a gateway of new opportunity for the Cedars," will be in an old warehouse at 2901 S. Lamar Street, where it hits South Boulevard. (Down the street from the South Side of Lamar and across the street from the Old School Night Club, if that helps.)

Says the agenda item, Dallas Film Commission head Janis Burklund and city staff have been negotiating with the owners of the property -- whose partners, according to filings with the Texas Secretary of State, include South Side of Lamar and convention center hotel developer Jack Matthews -- to turn 150,00 square feet of vacant warehouse space into a home for "operations related to the production of television series, featured films and related creative industry projects as well as businesses that are currently seeking facilities." Not having permanent facilities, says the city, "has put Dallas at a competitive disadvantage."

I asked Burklund last night, via e-mail, for more information concerning CCH Lamar Partners; she said she doesn't "really know the partners, it's an investment group," and that she's been "dealing with Matthews." I also asked when they're likely to begin the build-out: "They are planning to do some conversion work to a warehouse they own and anticipate [that] will happen very soon once [it] gets approved." I've got a call in to Matthews and will update accordingly.

The property's on the tax rolls for around $800,000. The city says Matthews and his partners in CCH Lamar need around $400,000 to bring it up to "minimal levels" for a facility, but that's just the beginning:

The proposed renovation of 2901 S. Lamar Street will allow the company to redevelop and concert the currently vacant property for higher use, adding value, security and the beginning of a gateway of new opportunity for the Cedars and the southern sector of the city.

The operation of an average television series means an average of 300 jobs (100 regular crew, plus on average 200 day players, police, extras & actors). Being located outside of Dallas inhibits the production's ability to efficiently and accurately portray Dallas in the filming of shows, when applicable.

The Cedars is a logical choice for such a set-up -- back in '03, NBC turned a small stretch of Alma Street and Cockrell Avenue into "Little Baghdad" (actually, Nasiriyah) for the made-for-TV Saving Jessica Lynch. Property owner Jack Stadtman had long hoped to turn that area into a movie studio of some kind. And if you've spent any time in the Cedars, you know most of it ain't nothing but land begging to be redeveloped.

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