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St. Paul-based film center seeking $3 million for building renovation

Rep. Leigh Finke (DFL-St. Paul) believes deeply in the ability of storytelling to build and maintain communities and increase understanding and empathy in the world.

“Any endeavor that we can do to increase that work needs to be supported,” she said.

As a documentary filmmaker, Finke can appreciate the unique ways films can tell stories, and to that end, she sponsors a bill to help a St. Paul film school create a 30% larger space.

HF752 would appropriate $3 million in fiscal year 2024 for FilmNorth to renovate the historic Brown-Jaspers Inc. Store Fixtures Company on University Avenue into a filmmaking and film education facility.

The House Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill Wednesday and sent it to the House Capital Investment Committee.

The 24,000-square-foot media arts center would contain classrooms, meeting spaces, editing rooms, indoor and outdoor cinemas and green spaces, said Andrew Peterson, FilmNorth executive director. “It is designed for the community … bringing community together around stories and storytelling.”

The project would create about 46 jobs in the near term, Peterson said, and the center is scheduled to be competed in the summer of 2024.

Finke said the project is “shovel-ready” and the request is a small portion of the project costs. FilmNorth said 59% of costs have been financed through the federal New Market Tax Credit program combined with historic tax credits.

Rep. Mike Wiener (R-Long Prairie) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would cancel the grant after six months if no material progress was made, and would require a report to the Legislature after one year.

Finke said money granted to FilmNorth would be administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development, which is already required to report to the Legislature regarding grants it manages.

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