From the AJC.com:
The vote appeared to be a no-brainer for the Atlanta City Council: Approve a multi-million dollar, 50-year lease to rent out the Lakewood Fairgrounds to EUE/Screen Gems and move Atlanta a step closer to Hollywood.
It ultimately was approved 13-0, but not without a fierce battle over the language in a proposed amendment and a spat over council territory.
Joyce Sheperd, who represents the district, fought throughout the day to get an amendment passed that would have required EUE/Screen Gems to guarantee a certain number of jobs for the community. It was a request some council members, plus Mayor Kasim Reed, saw as unreasonable.
“As this new industry comes into our city, I want to make sure at the end of the day I can drive by and know that people are working,” Sheperd said.
Throughout the tense debate over the amendments, Reed was an influential spectator.
“He pulled me out several times during the day and told me not to kill this deal,” Sheperd said, conceding that her jobs guarantee demand could have put the deal in jeopardy.
At stake was a proposed 50-year leasing agreement that would have EUE/Screen Gems pay the city $250,000 a year for a decade, and $600,000 thereafter.
In a compromise, the council voted to create a task force for setting up training programs and creating jobs in the area.
“I wanted to get a guarantee, but you can’t mandate jobs,” Sheperd said.
Sheperd was hoping that the studio opening will create at least 1,000 new jobs.
“This will be a face-lift for my community,” she said. “This will jump-start the creation of restaurants, hotels and shops right here in our community.”
Reed praised Sheperd for her work on the project.
“I believe this is a very important step the council took,” the mayor said. “This transaction will move Atlanta among the top five cities in the U.S. in terms of having motion pictures made. And it will create several hundred jobs.”
Once the Lakewood studio is up and running, every television and movie sound stage in the city will be in use, Reed said.
EUE/Screen Gems will utilize about 30 acres of the fairgrounds and the fairground’s Spanish Mission Revival exhibition halls and convert them into sound studios, according to the agreement. Some 40,000 square feet of new sound stages will accommodate television, commercial, digital and film productions.
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