It appears likely the starry-eyed promise of Hollywood has left the taxpayers of Allen Park with quite the handful of overpriced real estate.
This unhappy ending seems to be in line with how events have unfolded since the “groundbreaking” at Allen Park’s Unity Studios.
An October 2009 blog post titled “Dis-Unity Studios?” outlined the original public fervor with which Unity Studios was greeted, starting with Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s official news release along with the tax credits approved by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) and other juicy government offerings under consideration.
It’s taken less than two years for the entire project to implode. The (ceremonial) groundbreaking in August 2009 was followed by a tumultuous period which saw Unity Studios founder Jimmy Lifton go from promising thousands of jobs at his privately owned utopian 104-acre film studio and “retraining program,” to a scaled down studio and film school on city-owned property, to near eviction and eventually hightailing it out of Allen Park to set up shop in Detroit.
As the dust settles, it looks as if Allen Park got significantly less than it bargained for.
Detroit television station WXYZ reported the nearly $25 million purchase price of the old Visteon Technical Center should have only cost the city between $5 million and $8 million, according to a real estate expert. To make matters worse, the city reportedly did not have the property appraised prior to purchase.
The WXYZ story quotes an Allen Park restaurant owner who summed up her unhappy ending with this:
“I thought famous people were going to be walking in here! And having lunch, and we’d have a wall of fame, and pictures, you know, but it didn’t happen. I think we were all conned.”
But as a colleague of mine pointed out, WXYZ may have missed the irony in its own story. Here’s the paragraph preceding this above quote:
While Jennifer Carbanaro is wrapping up the lunch rush at her busy restaurant in downtown Allen Park, she and her customers want to know why Hollywood producer Jimmy Lifton called it “a wrap” on the much-hyped Unity Studios.
It looks like Ms. Carbanaro doesn’t need Unity Studios or famous people to have a busy lunch rush.
Could it be that endings can be happy without Hollywood handouts?
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