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Norcross studio project may get Kenny Rogers-designed hotel

The singer Kenny Rogers may be building a hotel as part of a movie studio project planned in Norcross.

The project’s developer, Jim Jacoby, suggested as much at a Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday. He told a story about talking with a business partner who got a message “for the gambler” during a recent meeting.

“Both my partner and myself reached for the message, if that gives any hint to who might be coming here,”said Jacoby, chairman of Jacoby Development. Rogers is known for his song “The Gambler.”

Rogers, who in September announced his next tour will be his last, told Rolling Stone later that month that he was about to start a project called “Kenny World” with a friend, but couldn’t talk much about it.

“We’re going to do a hotel, and I’m going to design it,” he told the magazine. “I’m going to decorate all the rooms.”

The hotel would be one piece of the Atlanta Media Campus, a redevelopment near I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard where OFS now makes fiber optic cables. Gwinnett commissioners approved the project last November, and movie franchises like “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent” and “Fast and Furious” have been renting space from OFS to film on the site.

“This is where the action is,” Jacoby said.

But the redevelopment has been delayed, and Jacoby has not yet closed on the property. He said the project is “taking a little bit longer” than planned because OFS’ business has been improving, and the company is reconsidering how much land it wants to give up.

“They want to expand a little bit, but we’re trying to lay out our master plan,” he said.

No one from OFS returned calls seeking comment on Friday.

Jacoby said he now expects to close in the first quarter of 2016. In addition to movie sound stages and a hotel, the redevelopment plan includes retail and office space, multifamily housing and college dorms. The company has signed memorandums of understanding with some colleges or universities to bring classes to the campus where students can learn the craft, intern on movies and mingle with professionals.

Beyond that, Jacoby envisions a media incubator with new technology companies; a cottage industry for commercials; space for game makers, illustrators and animators; and other creative uses.

He said on Friday it may even make sense to resurrect Georgia’s shuttered Music Hall of Fame on the property.

A motion capture theme park, virtual reality experience and microtheaters where game- and filmmakers can debut their work may also be part of the long-term plan.

“There are a lot of new things we’re hopefully going to announce in the next 90 days,” he said.

Jacoby also said he is considering creating a film society, where some people can have early access to movies and a chance to be extras in the films they will later see.

“The future is now,” Jacoby said. “With such a large project we have there, it offers synergistic opportunities for entertainment and education.”

The project has long been considered a catalyst for the area, which has suffered as OFS shrank in previous years, and businesses closed. Already, millions of dollars of development have flowed into the area based on the vision, said Chuck Warbington, director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District.

“I wish it would happen sooner, but we go through the process to make sure we do it the right way,” he said.

Jacoby said he has been discussing a public-private partnership with Gwinnett leaders, but there is some fine tuning and tweaking to be done to the financial model. The property is in an Opportunity Zone and a Tax Allocation District, and both of those designations may help with the financing.

In the end, Jacoby said, he wants to build a hub for media businesses of all kinds.

“We’re having conversations to bring it all under one area,” he said. “People should never have to leave.”

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