Ground broken for $100M film studio project in South Shore

South Shore
Mayor Lightfoot (center), other city politicians, and Regal Mile Studios officials participate in ceremonial a ceremonial ground breaking ceremony on Monday, February 7, at future film studio site in the South Shore. Photo credit City of Chicago

Mayor Lori Lightfoot broke ground Monday on a $100 million South Shore film studio that aims to make Chicago the "Hollywood of the Midwest"  and bring hundreds of jobs to neighborhood residents.

The 222,000-square foot Regal Mile Studios is projected to open next year on a 7-acre parcel at the intersection of South Chicago Avenue, Stony Island and 77th Street. The studio will have five soundstages, a gym, cafeteria and recreation space.

Lightfoot said the privately funded “state-of-the-art campus” will bolster Chicago’s place in the film industry, expanding the city’s tally of 15 long-running shows already filmed here. She spoke to a crowd that included state Sen. Elgie R. Sims Jr., city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin and others.

“The reason you see so many South Side elected officials here is because they all know that this investment is going to endure to benefit the entire South Side, and dare I saw the entire city,” Lightfoot said. “This is a big moment of pride.”

The studio will be built on land that has sat vacant for over two decades.

“For 24 years, we’ve been trying to develop this space — and now we’re finally here,” said outgoing Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).

The Regal Mile Studios venture has been led by Derek Dudley, producer of Showtime’s “The Chi,” and Jim Reynolds of Loop Capital Real Estate Partners.

Both men grew up on the South Side. They say the project has a special meaning for them.

“This one is near and dear because we’re going to take these young people, we’re going to revitalize this community and bring economic activity, and jobs, and hope back,” said Reynolds, who grew up in Englewood.

Dudley, who grew up in South Shore, said: “This is for the people of the community. … May it stand as a beacon of life, a symbol of hope of what is possible and an inspiration to all of us.”

Officials said the film studio will bring jobs to neighborhood residents — not to people out of town.

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) said her office is “engaged in very positive discussions” with CPS to create a training program that will offer high-paying union jobs to students that won’t require a college degree.

The project began in 2018 when Loop Capital began searching for a film site, Susan Cronin of Loop Capital said in a statement.

The project coalesced in November 2021  when the city’s Housing Committee agreed to sell six parcels of vacant, city-owned land in South Shore for $31,000.

Despite the project borrowing its name from the historic and ailing Avalon Regal Theater, around the corner, they are not related.

Lightfoot has spent her tenure trying to bolster Chicago’s share of the nation’s film and television productions. Chicago is already home to Cinespace Studios — which produces NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med.”

Lightfoot said the studio will complement her signature INVEST South/West program, which uses public money to spur economic activity in the city’s economically depressed neighborhoods. The city says it has allocated more than $2 billion in private and public money through the program for real estate developments on the South and West sides.

Film production revenue hit a record high of $700 million last year, Lightfoot said. This year is expected to top that number, she said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire & Chicago Sun-Times 2023. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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Featured Image Photo Credit: City of Chicago