SOUTH PORTLAND – South Portland is about to become home to a movie and television production studio.

The former National Guard armory on Broadway will be developed as the state’s first sound stage where movie sets are built and parts of motion pictures will be filmed.

City councilors voted unanimously Monday to lease the South Portland armory to Fore River Sound Stage LLC.

It took the city three years to negotiate the lease with Fore River after acquiring the building in 2006 during liquidation proceedings. The armory has been vacant since then.

“This venture is a terrific opportunity to further promote and enhance the creative economy within our community,” said City Manager James Gailey. “If successful, the sound stage has the ability to provide a significant boost to the local economy and would provide a great opportunity to have more films based in the state of Maine.”

Fore River Sound Stage’s partners, Eric Matheson of Cape Elizabeth and Mark Rockwood of Portland, said the armory development provides them with an opportunity to attract major motion-picture crews to Maine.

More than 10 movie production companies scout Maine each year, but few if any major films are being shot here due to the lack of a sound stage, they said.

“This sound stage will make us (the state) more competitive,” Rockwood said.

Matheson has built sets for “Empire Falls,” “Amistad,” “Man Without a Face” and “Message in a Bottle,” which was filmed at Popham Beach in Phippsburg.

The five-year lease will take effect June 1. The base rent will be $550 a month, with the first six months free.

Rockwood said the armory, which does not even have bathrooms, is in need of major repairs.

In other business, the City Council was presented with a petition signed by about 200 residents who want the city to enact a 180-day moratorium on development in the Willard Square neighborhood.

The petition was circulated after two former employees of the Rosemont Market in Yarmouth introduced preliminary plans to build a two-story, 2,400-square-foot grocery store in Willard Square.

Residents said a parking study and stronger zoning are needed before any further development can take place in the neighborhood.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]