Trump deals for Miami film studio
By Ashley Hopkins and Catherine Lackner
If Commissioner Joe Martinez has his way, within a few years a vast film and entertainment complex supported by the Trump Organization will rise on 790 county-owned acres near Homestead Air Reserve Base in far southern Miami-Dade County.
The county commission voted Tuesday to give the property appraiser's office 180 days to study the feasibility of a film studio at the base. The office was given 90 days to report preliminary findings, during which time the county would freeze the site from any lease negotiations.
"What does Hollywood have that we don't have?" Mr. Martinez asked Tuesday. "What does LA have that we don't have? They are not as close to Central and South America as we are. They are not as close to the financial capital of the world as we are. They are not as close to Europe as we are.… Why can't we have an industry that even the environmentalists like — the movie industry?"
John Fotiadis, an architect hired by the Trump Organization, said the facility would include several sound stages — which could be as large as 250,000 square feet — back lots, a hotel, a magnet school for film and entertainment, an airport, a heliport and auxiliary structures.
"A whole production company would be able to move here," he said. "You have a variety of facilities that can accommodate different kinds of productions."
Michael Cohen, executive vice present and special counsel to Donald Trump, said film productions can generate $260,000 a day toward local revenue, while TV series can add $300,000. He estimated more than 16,000 jobs could surface.
"How do we expand [production companies] and bring them specifically to Florida?" he asked.
In 2001 investors from New York and Palm Beach presented movie studio plans to the commission in hopes of shooting a World War II film at Homestead.
At the time, John Corso, producer, director and co-author of Lone Eagle: Legend of the Red Tails, told the commission that he estimated a studio could contribute $300 million to the local economy. He said the base had space enough for more than 140 sets and South Florida's weather and professional crews made it ideal for filming.
Mr. Martinez worked to bring the studio to the airbase and had an architect do a rendering. While investors intended the base to become a permanent home for future film productions, in the end he couldn't garner enough support to move the project forward.
Now in his second chairmanship and a mayoral candidate, Mr. Martinez said he'd like to revisit the issue.
"There are challenges for sure," he said. "Trump is a real estate man and the first thing he says is "know your property.' There are things that have to be worked out, but… you gotta dream. Las Vegas came out of the desert. You have to start somewhere."
The commission approved the study after Mayor Carlos Gimenez also spoke in support.
"This administration looks forward to meet with the Trump Organization and moving this forward," the mayor said. "We're a can-do administration, not a can't-do administration."
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