Although David Beckham's plan to build a soccer stadium in the heart of downtown Miami has dominated the local news cycle recently, it's not the only new development facing criticism.
A panel assembled Tuesday afternoon at the Biltmore Hotel to discuss the future Miami Entertainment Complex (MEC), which promises to make the city more attractive for television and film production. There, representatives of MEC and the Omni neighborhood downplayed the concerns of some local film experts, who have argued that the project is a financially risky endeavor with limited use for large film productions.
Pieter Bockweg is the man in charge of revitalizing the neighborhood and believes that an $11.5 million studio space located at 50 NW 14th St. is just the shot in the arm that the area needs.
"An industry like this covers the most amount of impact into a community than any other industry," Bockweg said after the event. "Not just from a job creation standpoint, but also from a marketing standpoint and bringing attention to the area and also from a vender's standpoint within the area."
Bockweg thinks that the facility, scheduled to be finished in August 2015, will also stimulate other sectors of the county's economy from rental cars to food service.
The site will house two 15,000-square-foot studios which supporters promise will be large enough to service television and film production crews.
Not everybody is as optimistic though. Miami filmmaker Billy Corben told Cultist in March that the space was "completely unfeasible and unusable."
Chris Cooney, the COO of Screen Gems, the company picked to operate the MEC, brushed off Corben's criticism. "That's one man's opinion. We're experienced operators and we know what it takes to service clients," Cooney said.
Cooney said that Florida should challenge entertainment powerhouse states like California and New York for work. He feels that the MEC is a powerful push in that direction.
"Us coming in helps lead them into an infrastructure that can support film and television," Cooney said. "We think a lot of television should come to Florida and Miami because of the appeal of the city. The crews here are quite good, you have a great airport, great hotels, and that's really all you need to satisfy a producer today."
Other panelists included Sam Tedesco, a longtime location manager for wide release films and Eugene Rodriguez, the owner of the Ice Palace studios, located at 59 NW 14th St.
Rodriguez is strongly supportive of the MEC and said that he hoped to help bring the new studio business through his smaller operation.
The largely docile crowd of industry insiders became more animated when the discussion turned to the topic of state-issued tax credits. Some feel that the state needs to better incentivize the entertainment industry in order to draw in more business.
All the folks on the panel indicated that the legislature's future actions in this area could make the difference for the success level of the complex. In 2010, Florida approved $296 million in tax incentives for film productions. But those credits were depleted by 2013. Since then, the lack of incentives has been a deciding factor in the case of at least two recent film productions that were considering Miami as a location, but ultimately lured elsewhere, the Miami Herald reports.
"I can tell you from our standpoint, investing $11.5 million into a brand new facility is a calculated risk in the sense that we are optimistic with what happened this year in the legislature," Bockweg said.
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Cooney adamantly believes that the legislature will act in the next session to bail out the Florida film industry. But he also thinks that the complex could succeed without the big money projects that won't come without a more favorable tax regime.
Bockweg said that the facility could survive at least five years without getting the tax incentives passed through the legislature.
"Irrespective of state incentives, this project will still be profitable for the area and will have a good return on investment because of the smaller budget films that don't qualify for tax incentives."