Knickpoint Ventures today welcomed civic, community and business leaders to the topping-off ceremony at The Fields Studios, Chicago’s first purpose-built film studio that is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024. It boasts nine sound stages on two lots totaling 132,000 square feet of sound stages and over 350,000 square feet of creative and production offices, plus mill and support space. The Fields Studios offers the largest sound stage in Chicago and is the latest addition to the mixed-use redevelopment of the 20+acre, 1.5 million-square-foot former Marshall Fields warehouse property on Chicago’s Northwest Side.
Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the state’s commitment to the growth of the local film business by introducing a development subsidy to spur the growth of additional, critical sound stage infrastructure such as The Fields Studios. “The Fields Studios is an important driver of jobs and revenue for the city and the state, and further elevates Illinois’ position as a viable and desirable production option for the entertainment industry. We welcome Knickpoint Ventures’ innovative approach, industry expertise and commitment to Chicago and its meaningful addition to our film production capacity,” said Governor Pritzker.
In March, Governor Pritzker signed a 10-year extension of the state’s long-standing production tax credit for filmmakers, which also enhances the program with the inclusion of several “above the line” costs, a significant boost to Illinois’ program as it competes on a national and international basis for top quality productions. The Illinois legislature originally approved the film tax credit program in 2008 to improve the local economy and grow the film business in the state, encouraging local episodic and feature film production.
The new studio development will be the focus of the iconic adaptive reuse of the former Marshall Fields warehouse, which also includes a mix of retail, residences, office and now studio space. The redevelopment of the project into a film studio will bring the property back to its original manufacturing roots with jobs for those in the surrounding neighborhoods, with a modern twist. The campus will offer an engaging and efficient onsite environment that is integrated into a vibrant northwest corridor with its mix of shops, dining, arts and entertainment in a historic, architecturally distinctive and walkable neighborhood. The Fields is located at the nexus of several important neighborhoods, including Avondale, Logan Square, Hermosa and Belmont Cragin, which all share a unique cultural backdrop and a diverse, highly qualified workforce.
“Knickpoint Ventures is combining our expertise in commercial real estate and entertainment production to create a modern, mixed-use studio campus that brings a best-in-class facility to Chicago,” said Zain Koita, Founder and Managing Partner of Knickpoint Ventures. “The Fields Studios meaningfully connects with the public in both its physical design and the business opportunities it will bring to the surrounding community.”
📣 Big news in Chicago! The Fields Studios will be the latest addition to the thriving mixed-use redevelopment of the former Marshall Fields warehouse property on Chicago’s Northwest Side.🎬 #FieldsStudios #ChicagoFilmIndustry https://t.co/LAHlXGnBhs pic.twitter.com/okNsJwiWLm
— The Fields Studios (@TheFieldsStudio) May 22, 2023
As experienced entertainment industry producers, Knickpoint Ventures conceptualized The Fields Studios to ensure an optimal environment to meet the creative, logistical and functional demands of modern content manufacturing. Nine sound stages, eight NC-30 rated sound stages, ranging from 12,000 to 18,000 square feet, plus a 5,000-square-foot stage ideal for commercial shoots, music videos, and other smaller productions, will offer varying flexible stage configurations designed with fully collapsible interior stage doors that can create a 36,000-square-foot stage with ceiling heights up to 35 feet to the grids. This marks the largest combined sound stage in Chicago. The sound stages will have silent air and heat, ample stage power, major bandwidth and more. The studio campus will have approximately 150,000 square feet of support and mill space for surface-level base camp areas for production vehicles, multiple mills, support space for all production departments, dressing rooms and surrounding land for future back lot construction. There also will be acres of parking for base camp and personnel.
“The Fields Studios can accommodate a large-scale production with significant set design spacing needs with plenty of support for logistic demands, as well as smaller boutique projects, in an energetic campus environment that is designed to encourage collaboration and creativity,” said Shawn Papazian, Knickpoint Ventures partner, a long-time entertainment studio facility president and film and TV producer. “Our approach is to provide facilities that are purpose-built for today’s stringent production specifications while allowing for future capacity for increased technological needs. We bring a producer’s perspective to the physical studio business so that our clients can produce top-quality content in a connected, urban, campus-style location while taking advantage of Chicago’s high-quality crews and infrastructure, diverse natural and urban backdrops, and global transportation access.”
Chicago has a history in the entertainment industry dating back to the early days of movie making and, in recent years, has been attracting film and television production back to the city due to its recently amended film tax credits for production companies, which include incentives for both above-the-line and below-the-line costs spent locally.
According to the Chicago Film Office, the city has identified the entertainment industry as a growth opportunity, as it brings quality jobs for residents, opportunities for local businesses and tax dollars to aid Chicago’s post-COVID economic recovery. Government leaders support the growth of content creation as a form of modern-day intellectual property manufacturing to position the city and the state as being competitive as a global hub for the entertainment business.
Each production stage at The Fields Studios will create hundreds of quality union jobs. At capacity, The Fields Studios is expected to impact the local economy by driving nearly 12,000 production-related jobs with approximately $1.3 billion of economic impact in its first five years. In addition, The Fields Studios-based productions will generate an estimated $1.5 million annually to support the workforce development fund’s training initiatives, creating new career paths for residents and promoting a more diverse and inclusive industry workforce.
“We are committed to local hiring and training to position residents for the new jobs specific to production at the studio, such as crews, on-set work and other skilled trades that are required,” said Koita. “The studio will have a ripple effect throughout the local economy as productions utilize local vendors for everything from catering, services, set/costume/prop design, and construction. Approximately 75% of the businesses involved in film production are small-to-medium-sized with ten or fewer employees, so the economic impact of this industry is quite profound for local families to source jobs closer to home and their families.”
“The Fields Studios project is the latest example of the transformative community investments that are taking off in Chicago and supported by the unparalleled reliability of our grid, competitive energy costs, and commitment to sustainability – all of which are crucial for powering production on feature films and shows, and for doing business in today’s digital economy,” said Melissa Washington, SVP of Customer Operations & Chief Customer Officer for ComEd.
Originally built in 1928, The Fields Studios provides a perfect platform for a mix of approximately 200,000 square feet of creative and production offices on the upper floors and a vast collaborative lobby with approximately 50,000 square feet of adjoining complementary retail space. Knickpoint Ventures is populating the retail space with local businesses that have both a retail presence and onsite manufacturing. Current occupants include:
- Knickpoint has identified a retail mix that will include a variety of food and beverage operators that will provide onsite options for a growing workforce at the property.
- Cermak Fresh Market, a high-end local grocer, is already operating onsite as well as 123 new rental apartments that also are onsite, creating live-work opportunities for studio and studio-related employees.
- The Fields Studios building also offers office tenants expansive amenities, including rooftop decks, a fitness center, and onsite retail.
Located at the intersection of Diversey Avenue and Pulaski Road, The Fields Studios provides easy access for businesses and trades to service the studio and is convenient to the area’s public transportation network.
Construction of the new sound stages and support space is anticipated to be completed in the first quarter of 2024.