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Partners part ways at Moorpark studio

By   /   Monday, March 8th, 2010  /   Comments Off on Partners part ways at Moorpark studio

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Moorpark’s proposed $125 million soundstage is still in development, but its major roles are being recast.

Commonwealth Studios, set to be the largest independent soundstage in the country, is shuffling some of its key players. City officials said the development team seems to have parted ways in recent weeks, but the project itself is still on track.

The studio was conceived as a partnership between Triliad Developers in Thousand Oaks and a team of industry bigwigs operating as Commonwealth Studios.

“The Commonwealth people are no longer associated with the project in Moorpark,” confirmed Hugh Riley, Moorpark’s assistant city manager. “For some reason, they and Triliad – the developer – they’ve parted ways. We [at the city] became aware of it when we noticed Triliad was no longer referring to the project as Commonwealth Studios.”

Moorpark Studios West, as the development is now being called, is still progressing as scheduled, Riley said. Outwardly, nothing has changed but the name.

“As far as we know, Triliad is planning to continue on with getting the project entitled, at which point they’ll probably go back to the studio industry and look for a partner who can draw the names to the studio,” Riley said.

Hollywood veteran John Marshall, president and chief operating officer of Commonwealth, is one of the project’s biggest ties to Hollywood. He founded his independent film company, Screenfaire, in 2001 and has a producing and screenwriting background that includes work on Batman & Robin and The Partridge Family.

“We’re currently in a delicate negotiation that will keep us from revealing many details,” Marshall told the Business Times via e-mail. “In the meantime we’re still very much committed to a City of Moorpark location and are working hard to make the city our future home. We also continue to attract keen interest within the Hollywood community concerning our progress.”

Triliad representatives could not be reached for comment, but the company’s Web site still categorizes the Moorpark studio as “in development.”

“They’re keeping it pretty close to the vest,” Riley said. “We learned about the change when Triliad sent [Moorpark’s] city manager an e-mail indicating that Commonwealth was no longer involved.”

A final set of revised plans was submitted to city officials on March 2, and Riley said Triliad is moving forward on a number of issues, including drainage and highway improvements.

The Moorpark studio would be the largest entirely new studio built in California since the 1930s and equal in size to the CBS Studio Center in Studio City, according to a release.

David Bobardt, community development director for Moorpark, said the 44.5-acre project hasn’t changed much since its plans were first filed two years ago. Its proposed 559,450 square feet are on par with previous estimates.

Bobardt said one of most significant things altered in the planning process is the parking situation. Developers recently dropped the proposal for a four-story parking structure, opting instead for expanded surface parking.

The number of soundstages has also dwindled over the last few years and completely cut out plans for a backlot, instead incorporating facades for outdoor shoots. “They’re not cutting a lot,” Bobardt said. “They’re just refining the uses for the studio. It’s a strategic move.”

The biggest stage is still proposed at 30,000 square feet and is set to include a pool for underwater shoots. A 74,000-square-foot office building is also planned for the property, which will house a total of 12 soundstages, a conference center and commissary.

Bobardt said Triliad has been working directly with CalTrans on widening Highway 118 along studio frontage — something that was already in the city’s specific plan.

Bruce Stenslie, president and chief executive of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, said he does a fair amount of business with Hollywood executives who film in the county. He said that the Moorpark studio, if completed, would give the stagnant local industry a boost.

The lot is bordered by the Southern Pacific Railroad to the north, a Southern California Edison Co. power station to the east and Los Angeles Avenue to the south.

Commonwealth was originally slated to break ground in April 2009. The date was later bumped to November and now city officials aren’t sure when dirt will move on the lot.

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