By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun
Skilled trades will play a starring role in the construction of a huge new film studio that's expected to bring the coveted "Hollywood North" title back to Toronto while revitalizing the city's eastern port lands.
Up to 1.25 million square feet of buildings will be created on a 30-acre site north of the shipping channel and east of Cherry Street.
Toronto Film Studios (TFS) will construct the $175-million project. The first phase is expected to get underway next spring or summer and will take about a year to complete.
The remainder of the project will be constructed in phases over several years, TFS president Ken Ferguson reports. "The first phase incorporates about 40% of the full development scope of the film studio. Others will follow stage by stage in a rather continuous program led by the market."
In total, up to 1.25 million square feet of buildings will be created on a 30-acre site north of the shipping channel and east of Cherry Street. The complex will feature 750,000 sq. ft. of professional studio facilities.
Five studios and a 45,000-sq.-ft. sound stage will be built during the first phase of construction. Another 12 sound stages are planned for future construction.
The complex will also feature an Olympic-sized pool with a false bottom located beside the shipping channel for underwater filming and streetscape sets for exterior shots. The dock wall will allow producers to bring large ships or submarines to the studio lot.
Up to 500,000 sq. ft. of commercial and retail space -- accessible to the public -- will be built surrounding the lot. It could house film, media, union and guide offices, live-work spaces, a hotel and conference facilities, retail shops, restaurants, a film school and a fitness centre.
"A lot of people in the film industry are excited about what we're doing so far," Ferguson says. "The closer we can bring people together, you get this synergy ... that's why this village concept is so important to the film industry."
During construction, shops for lumber milling, painting, metalwork, set fabrication and plaster and vacu-form work will be located near the east end of the site for easy truck access. The studio management office will be located near the main gate.
TFS is Canada's largest film studio complex. Its main lot, located on Eastern Avenue, is made up of 14 stages totaling 120,000 sq. ft. Feature films produced in its facilities include The Cinderella Man, Good Will Hunting, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Tuxedo.
The Toronto Economic Development Committee, an arm's length city agency, awarded the film studio contract to TFS in June. The new complex is expected to go a long way to attracting big-budget films -- in turn generating big-budget spin-offs.
"The multiplier for the film industry is 21/2 to 3 times," says Ferguson. "For every dollar spent on film production, another $2 is spent indirectly, on everything from taxis to hotels. When Toronto is firing on all cylinders, it's doing $1 billion in production. That's a big multiplier."
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