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 MARK BELKO Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [email protected] JUL 19, 2022 6:55 PM

Part of the script has been written to bring a piece of Hollywood to an old Mon Valley blast furnace site.

The state has awarded $7.6 million in grants and loans to the Regional Industrial Development Corporation to help with the redevelopment of the Carrie Furnaces, with the bulk of the money targeted for the creation of a sound stage to bolster the local film industry.

Don Smith, RIDC president, said the $3 million grant and $4.6 million loan will help to fund the site preparation, infrastructure, road, parking, and utility work needed to pave the way for the construction of the sound stage.

“We’re extremely confident with this latest award that [state] Sen. [Jay] Costa championed for us that we’ll be in construction next year,” he said. 

Kris B. Mamula RIDC gets $2.5 million loan for new building near Carrie Furnaces

The new building will total about 52,000 square feet and will house two sound stages. They will represent the first sound stages built from ground up in the Pittsburgh region.

Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said old warehouses and other repurposed sites currently are used for sound stages needed for movie and TV productions filmed locally.

The project is part of a much broader vision known as the Pittsburgh Film Furnace — a film studio campus that will house six more sound stages, a carpentry shop, production facilities, and others for make-up, wardrobes, and the like.

Ms. Keezer said the goal is to bring together at one location much of the filmmaking process in the region, one that is now scattered over multiple sites.

“We want to try to centralize all of that,” she said.

Both she and Mr. Smith said most of the money is in place for the construction of the first building once the site work and infrastructure have been completed.

“We’re ready to go to start bringing jobs to Rankin and Swissvale,” Mr. Smith said. “People are starting to see that it’s real.”

 Patricia Sabatini Allegheny County, RIDC agree to develop Carrie Furnaces site

With the surge in the production of films and shows due to streaming and the demand for new content, “we have more work than places to put them,” Ms. Keezer noted.

Last year, 11 projects were filmed in Pittsburgh. The economic impact due to such filming in 2021 totaled $330 million compared with the average of about $150 million a year.

Ms. Keezer added that the filming done in the region relies in large part on local hiring and local businesses.

The state Business In Our Sites money, approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, represents the second major piece of funding received by the RIDC for the Carrie Furnaces property, which straddles Rankin and Swissvale.

Earlier this month, RIDC received a $2.2 million loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority to help with the construction of a $10 million flex-industrial building totaling 60,000 square feet. A groundbreaking for that one-story building is expected in the spring.

The Carrie Furnaces tower 92 feet over the Monongahela River and were once part of the U.S. Steel Homestead Works. The site, which dates back to 1884, has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

RIDC is partnering with Allegheny County’s redevelopment authority to bring new life to the property.

Also receiving funding under the Business In Our Sites program Tuesday was the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

It was awarded a $1.2 million grant and a $1.8 million loan for site preparation and land development related to the third phase of its Neighborhood 91 additive manufacturing campus at Pittsburgh International Airport.

In addition, the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority received a $1.4 million grant and a $2.1 million loan to help with the expansion of the Fairywood Industrial Park.

A total of $48.7 million in Business In Our Sites grants and loans were awarded statewide.

Mark Belko: [email protected]

First Published July 19, 2022, 6:55pm