Boyband Svengali Louis J. Pearlman has his eye on a chunk of Church Street Station, with the idea of turning it into a broadcasting studio/city backdrop similar to the set-up MTV uses for its afternoon "TRL" program.
If the deal goes through the new studio will be used to broadcast the third installment of Pearlman's "Making the Band," a show that follows a group of unknowns as they are packaged into a professional pop act.
He has two months to decide whether to exercise an option on Church Street Station, the downtown, western-themed tourist trap that has lately fallen on hard times. Parking is a concern, he says, and so is traffic on Church Street.
"We want to base our show in the right spot and have a street party as part of the show," Pearlman says.
So far he has met twice with Frank Billingsley, executive director of the Downtown Development Board, to sell the city on his plans and offer preliminary figures on how much revenue the project might generate.
Billingsley says the city could help with marketing or construction subsidies, depending on how lucrative Pearlman's idea turns out to be.
"We need more detailed information before we can justify spending public money," says Billingsley.
Pearlman or no, Church Street Station seems poised for a rebound.
Last Christmas, businesses in the massive complex were laying off workers and padlocking their doors. Now a number of nightspots are set to open, including a comedy club, a gaming arcade and a club called Aardvark's, managed by the same people who run Chillers on Church Street.
Pearlman, the impresario behind N' Sync and Backstreet Boys, is also considering relocating his recording studio from south Orlando to Church Street.
"This will capitalize on an industry that Central Florida has exported worldwide," Billingsley says.
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