By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – The Allen Park Studio Center has a new tenant – and some bad publicity.
“Wannabes,” a comedy about teens who attend a performing arts school, starring the singing group Savvy, is the newest addition to the center.
The show is distributed in countries including Israel and Australia, but has yet to find a network in the United States.
Published reports also confirm that Stautzenberger Institute has expanded its leased space from 20,000 to 35,000 square feet. Automotive Technical Co. also added 180,000 square feet, bringing it to 460,000 square feet.
The updates are the first to the center since Unity Studios and the Lifton Institute for Media Skills moved to Detroit in September after a year in the complex.
In a May press release, Mayor Gary Burtka expressed confidence about the center, saying the addition of Unity would “help Allen Park create jobs and emerge as the center of Michigan’s growing entertainment industry.”
But at a City Council meeting Tuesday, angry residents expressed concerns regarding the studio, after a recent report by WXYZ-TV 7 alleged that the city overpaid by as much as $20 million for the complex, which it purchased in 2008 for nearly $25 million. Burtka and City Administrator Eric Wadelich did not return phone calls regarding the allegations by press time.
Resident Harry Sisko said the decision to buy the property should have been put to a citywide vote.
“This would not happen if it were a vote,” he said. “Then it would be on us. You have put this on yourselves.”
Burtka responded, saying council members were “so let down” by the loss of the two businesses from the complex, adding that he believes the studio center will do well in time.
Councilman Francesco Tucci said the city is likely to see a return on its investment in time.
“We are working hard on it,” he said. “There’s progress there, there’s tenants there, there’s been improvements to the building and there’s much more coming down the road.”
Councilwoman Beverly Kelley said that the complex now is not what she had hoped, but that it has potential.
“We were conned, no doubt about it,” she said. “But I believe you will see that that building will rise from the ashes.”
(Sue Suchyta contributed to this report.)