Movie studio to come before Gwinnett planning board

At a mostly empty factory off Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross, sets are under construction for the alien invasion movie “The 5th Wave.”

Scenes from other film series, “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” also were shot at the site, temporarily converted into a studio. If the property owner, OFS, has its way, the arrangement will become more permanent.

OFS, which makes fiber optic cables, would like to sell its unused space to developer Jacoby. Jacoby plans to convert the one-time factory buildings into the Atlanta Media Center.

If approved Tuesday by planning commissioners and later by county leaders, construction would start early next year. The first phase would use existing buildings.

“This paints the glitter on a site that doesn’t have much glitter on it now,” said Michael Hahn, managing director of Jacoby.

Jacoby built Atlantic Station, and is currently working on the new Porsche headquarters in Hapeville. Much like Atlantic Station, Hahn said, the OFS project has the potential to be a catalyst for an area that has struggled to redevelop.

“At Atlantic Station, you’ve seen a change of that entire part of town,” he said. “We feel Atlantic Station was the anchor of that change. We hope to have that same effect here.”

In addition to production stages and backlots for filming an expected two TV shows and two feature films a year, the plans include offices, shopping areas, a film school with dorm rooms, a hotel and apartments that would keep the area bustling.

Michael Sullivan, an attorney representing the developer, said the project has widespread support in the area and regionally. Once the $926.4 million project is completed, a process that could take a decade, the developer estimates it will bring $15.2 million in annual tax revenue into the county.

Since OFS began to scale back its operations, the number of employees on site has fallen to several hundred from a peak of 5,000. There have been many proposals for what to do with the 107-acre site (about 81 football fields), from an Atlantic Station-like shopping center to a casino.

Ed Beagley, who has worked at OFS for more than 40 years, said it was “devastating” to see his company and the area decline. “It’s nice to see something come back,” he said.

“Jimmy Carter Boulevard is becoming Ground Zero for the media,” said Chuck Warbington, director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District and the chairman of the county’s planning commission. “Anything that happens here is going to change the corridor.”

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