OCEANPORT - Lights, camera, Netflix!
Netflix, which kept the Shore on pins and needles for 18 months over its plans, is buying Fort Monmouth’s Mega Parcel for $55 million to build a state-of-art production facility.
Two months ago, Netflix jumped protocol when it announced it was the chosen bid in a pool of several developers vying for the fort's Mega Parcel, a sprawling 300-arce parcel in parts of Eatontown and Oceanport.
On Wednesday, however, that was finally confirmed as the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority voted to enter into a sales contract with the streaming giant to buy the Mega Parcel, what FMERA calls a Purchase and Sale & Redevelopment Agreement.
In doing so, Netflix said it will invest upwards of $850 million to create one of the largest production facilities in the world, one with 12 sound stages, ancillary production spaces and back lots, similar in size and scope to its New Mexico studios. It will use the studios to produce high quality TV series and films, including originals. Production will also occasionally go on location at scenic backdrops around the state.
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On top of that, Netflix estimates it will generate between $7.4 billion and $8.9 billion in output over the next 20 years for production and construction. The value added to New Jersey’s economy as a direct result of that activity during that same period would be between $3.8 billion and $4.6 billion, it estimates.
"This will be a key focal point for us and it will be our East Coast production hub," said Rajiv Dalal, Netflix's director of content & studio affairs.
Eatontown Mayor Anthony Talerico was very appreciative of the effort that went into putting the Mega Parcel together and selling it. "I look forward to the road ahead to bring this project to fruition," he said.
"This transformative investment will serve as a cornerstone in our efforts to create a thriving industry from whole cloth," said Gov. Phil Murphy in a news release issued after the approval. "As a result of nearly a billion dollars in film production spending, New Jersey will further solidify its status as an emerging national leader in the television and film industries.
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"Additionally, Netflix’s substantial direct investment will stimulate job creation and spark an entirely new ecosystem of housing, hotels, and ancillary businesses and services, bringing with it countless additional jobs and boosting the regional economy," Murphy said.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority Wednesday said the annual report by the state’s Film and Television Commission found that film and television production in New Jersey shattered all previous records in 2021, with the industry spending more than a half of a billion dollars in the state and creating more than 5,500 jobs. The industry bested its previous spending record by nearly $80 million.
In total, New Jersey was home to 725 productions in 2021, including 68 feature films and 132 television series.
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In April 2021, Murphy wrote a letter to major Hollywood studios like Disney, Warner Bros., and Netflix in an attempt to lure them away from Georgia after a fight over changes in voter registration laws there.
Murphy offered the companies competitive tax breaks as part of a $14.5 billion economic incentive package that "makes the Garden State just as competitive as Georgia to attract film and television production businesses," Murphy wrote in the letter.
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Murphy touted the New Jersey Film and Digital Media Tax Credit program, which he signed into law in 2018 to encourage film and television studios and productions to choose New Jersey.
While Netflix's ears were certainly piqued by the tax incentives Murphy dangled before it, in the end, one of the biggest selling points, was the land. Dalal said its not easy to find a "large swath of land" near a major metropolitan location such as New York City. Dalal said the company's studios in Georgia, Toronto and Brooklyn will stay open even after the Fort Monmouth facility is built.
"We're thrilled to continue and expand our significant investment in New Jersey and North America," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix Co-CEO and chief content officer in a prepared statement. "We believe a Netflix studio can boost the local and state economy with thousands of new jobs and billions in economic output, while sparking a vibrant production ecosystem in New Jersey. We look forward to working with Governor Murphy, his administration and local leaders to finalize this deal in the months ahead. We thank the FMERA Board and their staff for selecting Netflix as the winning bid and for supporting our mission to create a state-of-the-art production facility at Fort Monmouth."
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That and Dalal said Netflix was attracted to New Jersey's workforce, which he says has top-notch crews and talent, and a vibrant creative sector that the company intends to tap into and further enrich.
During peak construction, Netflix spokespeople said they estimate the project will contribute as many as 3,500 jobs. Once the studio is fully operational, they conservatively estimate that Netflix production could contribute between 1,400 and 2,200 jobs annually.
In addition, Netflix expects there to be a considerable ripple effect as the production hub could spark private sector capital investment into adjacent industry infrastructure and businesses, including post-production and other digital facilities and services. The hub will spur larger industry investment in equipment, facilities and services, which should generate well-paying jobs.
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There's still a long road ahead before the streaming giant physically builds studios at the old fort. Netflix has a 36-month window to complete its due diligence on the site and acquire local approvals before closing on the property.
FMERA is the state agency in charge of redeveloping Fort Monmouth, which was shuttered by the U.S. Army in 2011, It has seen developers walk away from various properties at the fort during the due diligence period. Twice developers proposed plans for residential and commercial developments in the 80-acre Parcel B at the fort's Route 35 entrance, but failed to close on the site.
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Parcel B was then wrapped into Mega Parcel in 2021 — a move that appeared to be in anticipation of landing Netflix, which made headlines shortly thereafter in the summer of 2021 when it announced its intent to make an offer on the parcel.
The Mega Parcel was put put to public bid in June of this year.
The site is enormous and comes with many challenges, not the least of which is derelict buildings that will have to be knocked down. The Mega Parcel, though, is the largest FMERA has offered for sale since it began the process redeveloping the fort over a decade ago.
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The property consists of several redevelopment districts and was appraised at $55.4 million.
FMERA pitched the Mega Parcel as regional hub for one or more high-wage, high-growth sectors, including film and digital media, life sciences, information and high tech, clean energy and food and beverage as well as residential homes.
Dalal said Netflix will dedicate the entire site to the production facility. There are areas in the parcel, such as the parade grounds, that must remain open spaces, as was laid out in the fort's re-use plan, which was drafted just prior to the fort's closing. Dalal said their final site design will most likely go through several drafts before they settle on the final vision.
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"We're not 100% sure where everything is going to sit. But probably as you drive by you will be able to grab a glimpse of the letter 'N' on our sound stages" Dalal said, referring to Netflix's logo and placement of the studios.
"We're going to do the best we can to preserve monuments, flag grounds, parade grounds. There's going to be some walking trails. It's a really unique site," he said.
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When Jersey Shore native Dan Radel is not reporting the news, you can find him in a college classroom where he is a history professor. Reach him @danielradelapp; 732-643-4072; [email protected].