Media Production Center update

By Sara Harvey

Columbia is a step closer to purchasing the land at 16th and State streets for the construction of the Media Production Center.

The Community Development Commission voted unanimously to recommend to City Council the sale of the $3.2 million parcel of land for $200,000.

The one-story Media Production Center will include two sound stages, a motion capture studio and an animation lab, among other amenities, for film, video and television majors.

The Office of Institutional Advancement set up a $20 million capital campaign in 2006 to help raise money for the Media Production Center. The funds will pay for the purchase of the land as well as scholarships and endowments, Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement, told the Chronicle in 2007.

The space will be a necessary addition to the current allotment of studio and professional equipment space, said Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment.

The college narrowed down 29 firms to choose Jeanne Gang of Chicago’s Studio Gang Architects to design the Media Production Center.

The City Council is expected to approve the sale of the land for the Media Production Center on Sept. 11.

Berg said the Media Production Center will invigorate street life and contribute to Columbia’s reputation as the “long-term South Loop anchor.” Berg said due to the expanding student population, the South Loop is known by many as “college central” and even “Loop U.”

The booming street life isn’t all the Media Production Center is expected to contribute.

Berg said the construction of the Media Production Center at 1600-1632 S. State St. will provide construction industry job training for students at the Dawson Technical Institute of Kennedy-King College, 3900 S. State St.. Dawson Tech’s Construction Career Opportunities program works with W.E. O’Neil Construction Co, the firm hired to build the Media Production Center, to provide five apprentice construction jobs to the program’s graduate students. The apprenticeships are expected to help the students achieve union-track jobs.

Berg said these five apprentices will have a hand in constructing Columbia’s first environmentally sustainable structure built from the ground up.

“We’re doing a lot to make sure all our new rehab projects are LEED-certified,” Berg said.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is nationally recognized as a benchmark for green design. Berg said the college is currently seeking LEED certification for the 33 E. Congress Parkway building, which is furnished with sustainable carpet, furniture and other fixtures.

The Media Production Center will literally have a green roof: More than half of it will be landscaped, with room for a terrace.

The city is also allowing Columbia to recycle a 25-foot terra cotta arch from a building at 1327 S. Wabash Ave., which reads “Famous Players Lasky Corporation,” which was Paramount Pictures before it changed its name.

It only seemed right to let the school’s new media building reuse something so connected to the film business, Berg said.

“Harkening back to the era of Film Row, it a really nice tie-in,” she said.

Columbia is also renovating 618 S. Michigan Ave. and 916-1000 S. Wabash Ave., beginning in spring 2009.