The City of Miami should not be putting public funds into building a studio for film and television production. The Miami Herald reported Monday that the city is offering $10 million in public funds to anyone who wants to rent a 71,000 square foot building, located at 50 NW 14th Street in Overtown, and convert it into a quality production studio. The plan is designed to lure Hollywood productions to Miami. But a new studio space will do little to achieve that goal -- and waste millions in public funds in the process.
The building in question was purchased by the city's Omni Community Redevelopment Agency from the school board in 2011 for $3.1 million. There's something fishy about infusing public dollars into an unoccupied, city-owned building; it reeks of a real-estate hustle. If a top-notch, world-class production studio is needed in Miami, it should come from the private sector.
In addition, there are already studios in this town that provide what this project offers, and they're often empty. SoHo Studios in Wynwood offers a 65,000 square foot venue. The Ice Palace at 59 NW 14th St exists directly across the street from the proposed location. M3 Productions offers potential clients world-class stages, as well as Greenwich Studios in North Miami. MAPS Production House in Wynwood is yet another option. There are dozens of quality production studios and soundproof stages spread out across Miami, and many of them are already empty. How will adding one more help draw in more TV and movie productions?
Of course, I do want Miami's film industry to thrive. Miami is not Hollywood, California, nor will it ever be, but Miami is rapidly growing in stature, population, sophistication, and allure. The city is going through a cultural renaissance. We should be promoting our film and television production industry -- but not with public funds, and certainly not right now. This city's film industry is reeling from the cancellation of three popular series shot on location and set in Miami (Magic City, Burn Notice and The Glades). And the state tax subsidies for film and TV projects -- the discounts that really bring productions to Florida -- could be canceled by lawmakers this year. It makes no sense to invest $10 million in city funds into a film studio at a time like this.
To foster the development of Miami's film and production industry, here's what really needs to happen. First, some huge producers must invest in our community and commit to the city their own resources and productions. There's good reason for them to do so; Miami has never had more potential as a world-class destination.
Second, Tallahassee should extend, and even increase its subsidies and tax breaks for television shows and movies so more productions are attracted to the state.
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Finally, and most important for our sense of organic growth from within, we need to support the talent we already have so they don't have to leave to find work.
But none of these occurs with a $10 million dollar public investment into an empty building the city wants to rent.
J.J. Colagrande is the author of the novels Headz and Decò. Follow him on Twitter.