New film production complex in McKees Rocks expected to boost regional growth.

Island Studios has broken ground on a new 75,000 square-foot sound-proof stage and 40,000 square-foot office space in McKees Rocks, partly funded by a $2.5 million Economic Growth Initiative grant from the state that promises to accelerate economic growth and boost Pittsburgh’s standing in the movie industry.

Island Studios and its affiliate company were created to provide top of the line production space with the hope of attracting local and national filmmakers. DeWitt Peart, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, says Island Studios’ new space will strengthen the region’s role in the film business.

“With the addition of Island Studio’s new 75,000-square-foot sound-proof stage and 40,000 square-foot office complex, the film industry will be able to take its art further faster here while adding jobs, spurring economic growth and shining an even brighter spotlight on the Pittsburgh region.”

What’s more, the new complex will support McKees Rocks strategic plan by connecting the site’s economic activity with the community’s downtown, says McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation Executive Director Taris A. Vrcek.

“We’ve been very deliberate. It was critical for us to find the type of end user who would hit all the metrics: high job creation, doing something that was compelling from the community standpoint, and creating a product that would synergize with our arts, entertainment and manufacturing,” he says. “It’s really our time. We’re excited to see these pieces coming together.”

Since the film tax break was passed, film production has contributed $1 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy. With this project, Pittsburgh will be home to three movie studios including another Island Studios space and Mogul Mind Studios in the Strip District.

Dreamworks, Miramax, Lionsgate, ABC and 20th Century Fox have all been Island Studios clients.

The studio will cost $10 million and is expected to open in 2015. It is located behind the Jenny Lee Bakery in McKee’s Rocks; those attending the groundbreaking were directed to Harriet and Cutler Streets. The complex will be the first development on the Pennsylvania & Lake Erie Railroad brownfield site. CSX Corporation has committed $58 million to build an intermodal transport facility there. Combined, the two initiatives lead the way in reshaping McKees Rocks.

Margaret J. Krauss is a writer, radio producer, and researcher. If not biking Pittsburgh's streets or swimming its rivers, she is likely geeking out about a really good story.