Former Movie Studio Property in Effingham Gets First, Spec Building

Thursday, October 8th 2020

Construction finally has begun on the property in Effingham County that had been the proposed site of a massive movie studio – a spec building that will be marketed to warehouse distribution, light assembly and e-commerce businesses.


Panattoni Development Co. Inc. began construction last week on a 518,400-square-foot building that could be expanded to 1.1 million square feet. Eventually, the company could develop up to 2.4 million square feet of space at the site.

The deal is a joint venture with investment manager PCCP LLC.

Dayne Pryor, a partner in Panattoni Development, said the buildings and land represent a $150 million investment.

Brandt Herndon, CEO of the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority, said the companies have paid $120,000 an acre for 67 acres and have an option on another 100 acres. He said the IDA will use the $8 million from the land sale to pay down debt, possibly on that property, dubbed the Savannah International Portside Park, and at the Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub, on McCall Road in Rincon.

The site at I-16 has a paved entrance with curb and gutter and street lights with a building pad and all utilities.

Evans General Contractors, based in Atlanta with a Savannah office, is constructing the building, which will be finished by May of next year, Pryor said. The construction work will create 150 local jobs.

The IDA owned a total of 1,500 acres at the site, at the northeast corner of Interstate 16 and Old River Road, but a lot of the property is wetlands. Herndon said after the Panattoni deal, there’s another 120 acres that can be developed, but it’s broken up into 20- to 30-acre tracts.

The land was going to be the site of Medient, later called Moon River, movie studios. That project, announced in 2013, had financial problems and never materialized.

Development at the site “has been a long time coming,” Herndon said, adding that the timing is right. “Long-term, as we come out of the pandemic there’s going to be reshoring out of China. People feel better having product here on American soil.”

He said the projection for the Savannah Port is for 4.8 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) a year to grow to 8 million TEUs. “There’s got to be more buildings – warehouses to accommodate the growth of the port,” Herndon said.

He said the IDA issued a request for proposals for spec buildings on the I-16 property about a year ago and six companies submitted bids. The IDA chose Panattoni partly because the company has completed successful projects in the Coastal Empire.

“We’ve developed several buildings in the Savannah market,” Pryor said. “We’re delighted to be back in the Savannah market, particularly in Effingham County.”

Panattoni is a privately held development company based in Irvine, Calif., that builds for a fee or leases build-to-suit buildings. It plans to lease the spec building in Effingham.

Pryor said the company owns over 40 million square feet of properties nationwide and is one of the largest private industrial developers in the country.

He said COVID-19 paused work earlier this year when imports dropped at the port but “things have really come back strong since June.”

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for more supplies based in the U.S. so we don’t run out of toilet paper and masks,” he said. “A lot of companies are increasing inventory instead of just-in-time imports from China.”

He said his company is benefiting from the shift from shopping in stores to shopping online.

Finally seeing something happen at the site after the failed movie studio plans is gratifying. “It’s great for the community to be able to activate that site,” Pryor said.

By G.G. Rigsby

Savannah Now
Posted Oct 5, 2020 at 12:01 AM