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Cinespace, Location For 'Chicago Fire' Filming, Pressured To Give Up Grant After Investigation

By Margaret Paulson in News on Mar 25, 2015 6:10PM

In a Bruce Rauner money-grabbing move that we’re actually ok with, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios was forced to return a $10 million grant, with interest, after a Chicago Sun-Times investigation found extreme negligence.

The timeline of events was surprisingly swift. After a Sun-Times report on Saturday that Cinespace— a large North Lawndale film studio where “Chicago Fire” is filmed— was given a massive state grant to purchase adjacent industrial properties that actually weren’t even for sale, Gov. Rauner issued a statement Monday demanding that the studio repay the grant in full by May 7. By Tuesday, Cinespace had returned the money and Alex Pissios, its president, confirmed that six of the seven properties his company intended to purchase are under contract or have been sold since the check was issued by former governor Pat Quinn on Dec. 19.

But the Sun-Times found that the grant, given by Pat Quinn a few weeks before leaving office, was awarded without appraisals to justify purchase prices. Also, the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity didn’t have evidence of negotiations or pending contracts, and permission was given to Cinespace to buy other properties than the ones they had listed. Basically, it seems the $10 million was a no-strings-attached offering— a hefty sum from a state that should be counting its every penny.

The Sun-Times also found that in 2012, Cinespace was not in compliance with the terms of another $1.3 million grant, because they did not turn in timely status reports. Still, the state under Quinn’s guidance gave Cinespace three more grants totaling $16 million during that time.

This most recent grant is so obviously negligent on behalf of both parties on the most basic level that it's almost comical: Four of the properties on the application weren’t even up for sale at any recent point in time.

We’re willing to bet someone’s got connections here, but it also seems to be a case of former Gov. Quinn having a “don’t care, bye!” moment on his way out of office.