Developer aims to annex into Stonecrest, construct movie studio campus

Credit: City of Stonecrest

Credit: City of Stonecrest

The 19-acre campus, named Stonecrest Studios, would expand south DeKalb’s footprint in film and TV production

Stonecrest may soon get a little bigger, but what’s expected to really grow is the city’s presence in the film and television production industry.

A developer is trying to annex a 19-acre property into the city for the creation of a movie studio campus, which would be named Stonecrest Studios. Shaw DeKalb Properties, the land owner and developer, aims to build five sound stages and other film production spaces that span more than 150,000-square feet.

Timothy Shaw, a Shaw DeKalb representative, said the company already owns a vacant office building on the property, located off Miller Road, which has been transformed into impromptu film space amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the annexation and film studio development is the next logical step.

“We’ve got a lot of marquee companies that want to do business in our area,” Shaw said during a Tuesday Stonecrest Planning Commission meeting. He named Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple as companies that have shown interest or worked with his company previously.

The property is located north of I-20 and just west of Stonecrest’s city limits. The land is zoned for light industrial use and would maintain that zoning if the annexation is granted. City staff said DeKalb has been notified of the annexation request and has not objected.

The properties surrounding the site include other light industrial businesses and some residential areas — a 75-foot buffer would be preserved between homes and the studio site.

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Shaw said the pandemic led to his company’s foray into filmmaking. The global headquarters of Almex, a manufacturing company, is located at the Miller Road site, but has been vacant since the COVID-19 shutdown. Shaw said they were approached by studio companies that wanted to utilize the empty, 100,000-square foot space.

“As we can well understand during the pandemic, having a 100,000-square foot office complex that’s vacant is not the most desirable building to own when offices are not being utilized…,” Shaw said. “Last year, because of the huge demand of the movie industry, we were approached by some companies to take on utilizing the office building, which is not ideal since it’s not a sound stage, to do some work.”

He said “Steel Magnolias,” a romantic comedy series on Netflix, was filmed at the location. Shaw added that his company is in negotiations to acquire NuGround Studios, which is located next to the 19-acre plot, to fold into the larger Stonecrest Studios project alongside the Almex building. NuGrounds Studios annexed into Stonecrest last April.

During his pitch, Shaw said the studio site would aim for smaller projects than metro Atlanta’s large, established film studios, which often land blockbuster productions.

“What there’s a huge demand for is small episodic things like ‘Sweet Magnolias,’” he said. “Smaller productions, smaller budgets and they want to have basically their own space.”

The planning commission unanimously voted to endorse the proposal, which will go before the Stonecrest City Council at a future meeting.