'Burn Notice' returns to film at Coconut Grove waterfront base
By Catherine Lackner
The Miami City Commission voted last week to renew the lease for hit cable television show "Burn Notice" — most of which is shot in 107,000 square feet at the former Coconut Grove Exposition Center — but changed the ultimate destination of the rent payments.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff also hinted an even bigger change might ahead for the series, which directly injects an estimated $2 million into the local economy with each episode filmed.
In this year's lease, which runs through Oct. 31, 2012, half of the $20,000 per month that TVM Productions pays to the city will now flow to the general fund, with the other half going to a fund for Coconut Grove Waterfront redevelopment. For the lease's first four years, all the rent went to the redevelopment fund.
Mr. Sarnoff suggested that an eventual home for "Burn Notice" might be the Miami Entertainment Complex, a city-owned production hub planned for 89,000 square feet at 29 NW 13th St. There, Omni Community Redevelopment Agency wants to build a mixed-use facility — including two sound stages, editing suites, screening rooms, production offices and rooms for other production functions — to accommodate Miami's burgeoning film industry.
It's estimated the agency will spend $7 million to $10 million to build out the complex and raise the roof to 50 feet, the required height for sound stages. Once it opens, yearly net profit to the city is projected to be $2.3 million if it's booked at 100% capacity, $1.5 million at 75% capacity and $783,000 at 50% capacity.
When "Burn Notice" no longer needs it, the city wants to raze its current home at 2700 S Bayshore Dr., adjacent to City Hall, and turn it into a park area. Mr. Sarnoff has said he became involved in the Miami Entertainment Complex, in part, to find a new site for "Burn Notice."
"My interest was to get a filming facility built," he said. "Whether "Burn Notice' will go there or not, at least we have the ability to put other productions in that space."
And because "this type of facility doesn't belong on the waterfront," Mr. Sarnoff said, he would favor the series setting up shop there.
But that's not likely, said Terry Miller, the show's producer. He is familiar with the planned production venue, formerly known as the Miami Skills Center, and said the site has limitations, some of which might be structural.
"We need bigger sets," Mr. Miller said, "we've expanded. In the future it might be a great site for another show, but probably not for us."
"Don't be misled," Mayor Tomás Regalado said. "The city is not averse to this show. "Burn Notice' is seen in 53 countries, and if we were to pay one-tenth of 1% [of the value] of all the Miami images that are shown throughout the world, it would be significant."
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