NORTH LAWNDALE — A stretch of South Rockwell Street on the Cinespace Chicago campus was renamed for the studio's late founder Thursday.
Before his death, Nikolaos “Nick” Mirkopoulos redeveloped Ryerson Steel into a buzzing 52-acre film studio, laying the groundwork for hit TV shows to film like "Chicago Fire" and "Empire" to film in the North Lawndale neighborhood.
Mirkopoulos' family, who now operate the studio, were joined by former Gov. Pat Quinn, Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th), Lagunitas Brewing founder Tony Magee, production cast, crews and other leaders for the unveiling Thursday.
Alex Pissios, Cinespace president and Mirkopoulos' nephew, said his uncle had a legendary personality that attracted friends and clients from Hollywood to Chicago.
"My Uncle Nick saw the great potential of this property, but more importantly he saw the great potential of the people of Chicago — our talented and motivated film and television production crews, that were underutilized while working on only one or two projects a year," Pissios said. "[He] helped take Illinois production volumes from $25 million a year in 2009 to over $350 million in 2013. And we surpassed that number in 2014, and we will be surpassing it again in 2015."
Before opening a film studio in Chicago, Mirkopoulos, a successful contractor, opened the first Cinespace Film Studios in Toronto, Canada in 1988 after emigrating to the country from Greece in 1968. Today, Cinespace Toronto is Canada's largest film studio.
In 2011, Mirkopoulos officially acquired the Ryerson Steel complex, and subsequently redeveloped the massive property into Cinespace Chicago, a film studio that includes 22 stages and eight production office suites.
Mirkopoulos died in December 2013 in Greece.
Combined, Cinespace Toronto and Cinespace Chicago make up the largest private studio in North America.
Currently, four primetime TV series, "Empire," "Chicago Fire", "Chicago P.D." and "Chicago Medical," are shooting at Cinespace Chicago. Showtime's pilot "The Chicago Project" is also filming on the lot.
In addition to adding more stages, Cinespace leaders plan to open a Hollywood-style backlot on the campus, offering tours that would bring tourists to the neighborhood.
A stretch of South Rockwell Street on the Cinespace campus was renamed for the studio's late founder Nikolaos “Nick” Mirkopoulos. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]