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Production studio receives Chesterfield planning commission approval

At their June 14 meeting, the Chesterfield Planning Commission unanimously approved the recording and film studio planned for the 30.8-acre site on the north side of Chesterfield Airport Road, east of Spirit of St. Louis Boulevard.

Gateway Studios and Production Services offers turnkey production services for the live music touring, motion picture/television, and corporate event industries.

Also in attendance at the June 14 meeting were representatives from Gateway Studios and ARCO Construction, along with architects from GMA Architects and Stock & Associates. Also on hand was Cosmo Wilson, a concert lighting designer and director for rock bands, who has worked with names like Aerosmith, ACDC, The Rolling Stones and more.

Natalie Nye, city planner, provided details of the plan for the 23.8-acre Gateway Studios site that will showcase the main 293,146-square-foot building – a three-story glass façade with steel and wood panel accents and recessed metal canopies at the entrance points. A plaza is proposed at the entrance to the main building as well.

Rendition of Gateway Studios (Source: GMA Architects)

Three large, private studios used for recording, rehearsing and filming will surround that building. The design of these spaces utilizes tilt-up concrete panels with an exposed concrete pattern creating a marbleized effect on the exterior. Due to the need for exceptional acoustics in recording, rehearsing and filming, the studios would be designed with insulated tilt-up concrete exterior wall panels with minimal openings.

Studio support buildings, which house storage, loading docks, a kitchen, and recreation spaces, are designed to contrast the light gray studio walls by using a dark gray, integrally-colored concrete. 

A standalone 36,527-square-foot building will use similar design elements and materials as the main building. The office area for Studio 2 will be all glass with steel accents connecting to the studio area, which uses both the tilt-up gray concrete panels and the dark gray concrete walls. A glass-enclosed pedestrian walkway will connect the two buildings.

Gateway Studios will be served by three access points, two off of Chesterfield Airport Road and one off of Spirit of St. Louis Boulevard.

For security purposes, the main building and Studio 2 will have six different entry points from the internal drive with sliding security gates. An 8-foot aluminum fence will seal also off secured areas. However, the direct entrance to the main building from Chesterfield Airport Road leading to the circular entrance drive will not be gated.

A 30-foot landscape buffer with a variety of tree species and shrubs is proposed along the main roads and sidewalks around the perimeter and throughout the site.

The project was initially presented at the Architectural Review Board meeting May 13. Commissioner John Marino said board members were “overwhelming enthusiastic” about the project, including the lighting, materials used and the landscape plan.

Lot 2, which would be situated on a 6.9-acre tract, will feature the five-story Spirit Hotel constructed with a masonry exterior on the ground level and the floors above glass with metal panel accents. The 168-room hotel measures 171,791 square feet and include a restaurant with patio seating.

Rendition of Spirit Hotel (Source: GMA Architects)

Although the facility may not open until spring 2023, it is anticipated the space will fill quickly. A similar facility in the middle of a cornfield in Rock Lititz, Pennsylvania, was booked out two years in advance before the pandemic, Kerr said.

“Every major touring act needs to set up, test and rehearse, said Trey Kerr, CEO of Gateway Studios LLC.

Typically the production crew will arrive first to set up the equipment and gear, which could take anywhere from two weeks to two months to “get everything up and dialed in,” Kerr said, depending on how large the production is or how long it has been since the group last played together. Band members might not arrive until the last few days for rehearsal. 

In an effort to rally support for the countless music venues impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of buildings across the U.S., including New York’s Empire State Building, were illuminated in red lights (#RedAlertRESTART) on Sept. 1. The intent was to advocate for legislation such as the Save Our Stages Act designed to make grants to live venue operators and talent representatives to address the economic effects of COVID. It was finally approved by Congress in December.

“Every entity in the industry participated,” Kerr said.

Kerr said he intends to do something similar to light up the buildings at Gateway Studios, using various colors to highlight situations when needed.

The Planning Commission recommended approval for the site development, landscape, and lighting concept plans, along with a specialty lighting package.

The project will go before the City Council next.

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