Puerto Rico Faces Setback in Dream of Building Film Industry
(Bloomberg) -- Puerto Rico is pulling the plug on a $70 million project to build a film district in the capital -- complete with sound stages, studio lots and production facilities -- citing the developer’s repeated failure to meet deadlines and legal challenges.
It’s the latest setback for an island economy that has repeatedly taken flyers on new industries, in hopes of reversing years of economic malaise.
Mariela Vallines, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Convention Center Authority, said the developer and financier, Keith St. Clair and his company, RKA Studios, had failed to clear the 38-acre lot as required by contract and despite repeated extensions.
In addition, St. Clair has been sued by the Toledo Engineering construction firm for unpaid demolition bills, Vallines noted. The convention center was also named as a defendant in that suit.
“That raised some red flags,” she said. “Considering all of this, we decided it wasn’t a business that we wanted in the district.”
Puerto Rico has used tax incentives to lure television and movies to the island. It sometimes serves as a setting for tropical outdoor scenes, and in recent years, it has hosted crews for “The Last Thing He Wanted” with Anne Hathaway and “Primal” with Nicolas Cage. The film district would have expanded its infrastructure significantly.
St. Clair and his company had agreed to finance the estimated $70 million project in exchange for a 40-year lease on the land. The contract termination was first reported by the website News Is My Business. Calls and an email to the St. Clair group were not immediately returned.
St. Clair, a Welsh businessman, moved to Puerto Rico in 2015, attracted by the U.S. territory’s tax breaks.
The film district project was promoted in 2018 at a ceremony attended by former Governor Ricardo Rossello amid promises that it would create more than 1,300 jobs.
The production facility was also intended to be one of the cornerstones of an ambitious project to develop a tourism, arts and entertainment hub around the Puerto Rico Convention Center.
Vallines said several companies have expressed interest in the vacant lot, but no one seems to share St. Clair’s vision.
“We’re not against a film district project,” she said. “But right now, we have no one who is proposing it.”
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