Under the arrangement, Blackhall receives about 40 acres of the existing Intrenchment Creek Park, which backs up to its campus near Bouldercrest Road and I-285. The studio will use the land to dramatically expand its capacity for TV and film productions.
CEO Ryan Millsap said that, in terms of soundstage space, the additions will make Blackhall “the largest studio in the English-speaking world.” Everything could be up and running by next summer, he said.
“We’re excited to be able to take the next steps and turn the area into an incredible, growing entertainment mecca,” Millsap said.
The 53 acres that Blackhall is giving to DeKalb is just to the north, in several parcels on either side of Bouldercrest Road.
County officials and other supporters say the property will help create a larger contiguous swath of greenspace while connecting Intrenchment Creek with nearby Gresham Park. They envision a 13-acre meadow, a large ADA-accessible playground, a water feature like a splash pad and improved trails.
Blackhall has agreed to contribute $1.5 million worth of monetary and in-kind donations to the park project. That includes replacing amenities like a section of trail and an airstrip for remote control airplanes that will be lost during the studio’s expansion.
The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, meanwhile, recently voted to allocate about $1.7 million worth of unused urban redevelopment bonds for the overhaul.
“The land exchange is about bringing more access and more amenities to these long-standing communities to support their sustainability and quality of life,” Commissioner Larry Johnson, who represents the area, said in a news release.
A map of proposed amenities and replacements at the park planned on land DeKalb County acquired from Blackhall Studios in a recently closed land swap. SPECIAL PHOTO
The swap has the backing of many residents who live nearby, including leaders of the Southwest DeKalb Neighborhood Association and the Cedar Grove Neighborhood Association. Those folks have said they’re excited about the greenspace as well as the economic development opportunities presented by Blackhall’s expansion.
There has been some pushback, however.
Commissioner Kathie Gannon represented the western half of DeKalb, including the area in question, for more than 15 years before her recent retirement. She was adamantly opposed to the swap, saying it set a bad precedent to give public park land to a private developer.
There’s also a group called “Stop the Swap,” which has fought the Blackhall exchange for years. Jacqueline Echols, who also serves as president of the South River Watershed Alliance, is a member.
She said the group is still considering taking legal action to try and prevent things from moving forward.
“Since all else has failed,” Echols said Thursday, “we will pursue the only other option available.”