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South Salt Lake • Move over, Park City, South Salt Lake is about to become Utah's answer to Hollywood.
Perched on the steps of the former Granite High, an emotional Mayor Cherie Wood announced Tuesday the historic structure will be rehabbed as part of a motion picture and television production facility.
Developer Woodbury Corp. and partner Redman Movies and Stories formed a joint venture that will renovate campus buildings to be used as settings for future films, construct 90,000 square feet of sound stages, office and retail space and use existing green space on the 27-acre site for indoor and outdoor film production.
"This is a one-of-a-kind project of statewide economic importance that celebrates the historic value, quality and size of the campus and our neighborhood," Wood said. "As a Granite alumna and lifelong South Salt Lake resident, I knew there was a way to regain the glory of this campus and I am so glad we have finally found it."
Plans call for a $40 million investment by the Woodbury-Redman partnership: $8.45 million in the property purchase, up to $6 million in restoring existing buildings, and another $25 million to construct future sound stages, office space, restaurants and retail buildings, a city news release said.
The project saves the 105-year-old school, puts the property on the tax rolls for the first time, provides an economic punch that will bring movie and TV jobs and, city officials hope, will act as a catalyst for economic development on the 3300 South commercial corridor.
In addition, the facility will continue to be available for community activities.
It's a big turnaround from November when voters narrowly defeated a $25 million bond designed to buy and rehab the building and campus as a community center.
"If you follow the history of this proposed development project, to end up with the preservation of the building, green space and community access, I think it's a win-win," the mayor said in an interview. "It's putting South Salt Lake on the map as a film-friendly city."
Bryan Clifton, of the Salt Lake City-based Redman Movies and Stories, said the Granite campus will become "a center for creative energy." The entertainment industry will bring artistic endeavors to the historic Granite campus, as well as economic development to the community.
"We're planning a place that respects the past," Clifton said of the renovation. "And it will be a place to create the promise of our dreams."
A number of movie and TV scenes have been shot through the years at the old school, including segments of the long-running TV series "Touched by an Angel."
But turning a publicly held high school into a privately owned production facility wouldn't have been possible without a change in Utah law, explained Randy Sant, an economic development consultant for South Salt Lake. Until 2011, surplus school property had to remain in the public sector.
"The city understood that it couldn't raise the funds but still wanted the best possible project here," he said. With that in mind, officials set out to change the landscape, he said.
State Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored, and the 2012 Legislature passed, SB273, which amended the state's surplus property law and made it possible. "Kudos to Ben McAdams. That made all the difference," Sant said. "That allowed us to begin negotiations with the private sector."
The promise of a movie production studio in South Salt Lake brought big smiles among the crowd that attended Tuesday's announcement, including a big one from City Councilman Mike Rutter.
"This is a really big day," he said. "It's an opportunity to save a wonderful, old building and have something positive come out of it for the whole community."