Saanich is one step closer to hosting a movie studio with an estimated price tag of up to $40 million on the Interurban campus of Camosun College.
“This is a huge win for South Island and Saanich,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes in commenting on the decision of Camosun College to start discussions with Lexi Development Group about the feasibility of building a film studio, a sound stage and educational facilities near the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE).
Lexi Development Group and Camosun College announced the upcoming feasibility study Wednesday morning.
“We’re starting to explore the potential of a film studio in partnership with industry that would complement existing programs, while opening the door to educational programs that support B.C.’s film industry,” said Sherri Bell, president of Camosun College.
While Haynes agreed with Bell in saying that the project remains very much in its early stages, it could bears far-reaching benefits for Saanich, which has been seeking to increase its non-residential tax base. (By way of background, about 77 per cent of municipal tax revenue comes from residential properties, with most of the remainder coming from business properties). Haynes also said the studio could generate synergies with the nearby Vancouver Island Technology Park, while also tying in with other proposed project for Saanich as a new hotel.
“It brings diversity and resilience to our economy,” said Haynes, whose has been working on this file for at least years, first as a councillor, then as mayor.
A studio could help the region increase its share of the provincial movie industry, he said, in noting that the provincial industry generates about $3.4 billion and employs 60,870 people. The region, however, only captures a small fraction of this share, because it lacks the necessary physical infrastructure and personnel. The region has had to decline offers by Amazon, Netflix and Paramount Studies for this very reason, said Haynes.
Many details remain outstanding, including final costs. Haynes personally estimates that the complete complex (which would include two sound stages) would cost anywhere between $25 to $40 million.
The project still has to clear a number of hurdles. They include community consultations, securing final approval from the provincial government, and support from Saanich as the host municipality.