NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The City of New Brunswick and New Brunswick Development Corporation have broken ground on the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center project, a $172 million redevelopment initiative that officials say will transform New Brunswick’s Downtown Cultural Arts District.
The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is a public-private partnership among Devco, the City of New Brunswick, Rutgers University, Middlesex County, New Jersey Economic Development Authority, New Brunswick Cultural Center, Pennrose, LLC, and New Brunswick Parking Authority, and 11 other groups and organizations.
The NBPAC initiative, a 450,000 square foot project that will be located on the site of the former George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theater on Livingston Avenue in downtown New Brunswick, will continue to distinguish New Brunswick as a premier center for the performing arts.
“The City of New Brunswick and its partner in redevelopment, Devco, will soon be ushering in a new era for our Cultural Center with the construction of these transformative facilities, further bolstering New Brunswick’s legacy as a place where the arts grow and thrive,” says Mayor Jim Cahill. “The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is an example of Devco and our city’s expertise in leveraging public-private partnerships for maximum benefit to our community as we further our commitment to the arts, housing, economic development, education and job creation. We are excited to join and thank all our partners who have played an integral role in beginning this next chapter of history for our Cultural Center with this innovative and far-reaching project.”
The innovative redevelopment project, which is expected to open its doors to the public in 2019, will be home to George Street Playhouse, Crossroads Theatre Company, American Repertory Ballet, and Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. NBPAC will attract and support arts professionals and organizations, sparking creativity and innovation across New Brunswick’s arts community.
The new theater complex will include two state-of-the-art, proscenium-style theaters, designed to accommodate musical theater, dance, opera, and dramatic theater. The Lyric Theatre, which will seat 462 patrons, will feature an 86-foot stage, a 75-foot fly tower and a trap system, with an orchestra pit that will be able to accommodate 60-70 musicians. The playhouse, designed primarily for theatrical performances and smaller dancer performances, will have 252 seats and will feature a 60-foot stage and contemporary grid system for lighting and sound and will provide the NBPAC with additional flexibility for lecture, community, and musical events to be accommodated.
In addition to the two theaters, the main building will also contain three rehearsal studios which will replicate the stage spaces of the two theaters inside the complex, helping maximize the use of the theater venues by providing access to rehearsal time off the main and second stages. Each studio will be designed to support dance, drama, music rehearsals, general classes, workshops and small public performances. The two floors above the theater complex will include 30,000 feet of office space and will be owned by the County of Middlesex, for use by arts organizations and potential private sector groups.
“This is an extraordinary example of public-private partnership and a resource that will offer so much for students, artists, theatergoers, local businesses, the city, and the region,” says Robert Barchi, president of Rutgers University. “Rutgers is excited to be part of NBPAC, and we can’t wait to have our students learn and perform here.”
Additionally, a 207-unit residential rental apartment tower will rise above the theater complex, featuring both market rate and affordable luxury apartment units, equipped with state-of-the-art appliances and finishes, 10-foot ceilings, and open floor plans. It will be owned and operated by Pennrose. The residential tower will also provide residents with access to a wide range of amenities, including an outdoor roof deck, a demonstration kitchen, work space, and a full fitness center. The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center development team anticipates partnering with The Actors Fund to market the new luxury units to graphic artists, actors, musicians, dancers and theater support personnel. A 344-space structured parking garage will also be developed on a former surface parking lot as part of the redevelopment project.
“This project is a great example of what the public and private sectors can do when we work together toward a common goal of investing in our communities in ways that create jobs and promote economic activity,” says New Jersey State Senate president Stephen M. Sweeney. “The partnership of the State of New Jersey, New Brunswick, Rutgers University and Devco has helped to transform the city and the region. Arts and entertainment can be important components of a multi-dimensional approach to economic development because they contribute to the economy with construction and permanent jobs and as attractions for commercial activity.”
NBPAC will provide significant economic benefits to the local community. The two new theaters will attract larger productions and accommodate more shows, and NBPAC estimates that more than 120 full-time equivalent jobs will become available when the facility opens, representing more than a 25% increase in the total number of individuals employed across New Brunswick’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations. Money spent by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences is expected to increase with the addition of NBPAC, driving growth in revenue for local businesses and merchants.
“Middlesex County is a place that truly values and invests in our arts community, and that is why we are so very proud of our contributions to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center,” says Middlesex County Freeholder director Ronald G. Rios. “This project will help my fellow Freeholders and me reach our goals of giving our residents opportunities to learn, to perform and to enjoy the arts in all its forms, and to boost economic development by making Middlesex County a destination for people from all over the Northeast Region to come for top quality arts and cultural programs and performances.”