Arts & Entertainment

City breaks ground for $172 million performing arts center

Groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 4 for the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center on Livingston Avenue. Credits: Daniel J. Munoz

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The City of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) broke ground on Oct. 4 for a 22-story, $172 million project in the center of the downtown performing arts district.

Known as the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC), the impressive 450,000-square-foot project will house the Crossroads Theater and George Street Playhouse, the American Repertory Ballet and a detachment of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

To make it possible, the project is a public-private partnership between a host of organizations, including DEVCO, the city, Rutgers, Middlesex County, the state Economic Development Authority and the New Brunswick Parking Authority

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Funding is coming from a patchwork of sources, including a $18.5 million tax abatement from the city and $23 million in bonds issued by the city parking authority.

In attendance at the Oct. 4 ceremony were State Senate President Steve Sweeney, New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, Rutgers President Robert Barchi, DEVCO President Chris Paladino and Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald Rios.

The project would “usher in a new era,” for the city’s cultural center, Cahill said, and “bolster New Brunswick’s legacy as a place where the arts grow and thrive.”

NBPAC will add to a slew of other projects in downtown New Brunswick, including The Hub @ New Brunswick Station, a potential Amazon headquarters that most major cities in New Jersey are vying for and 90 Bayard Street, a 20-story mixed use development on Bayard Street.

“This is an extraordinary example of a public-private partnership and a resource that will offer so much for students, artists, theatergoers, local businesses, the city, and the region,” Barchi said.

NBPAC will hold two proscenium-style theaters. The Lyric Theater will seat 462 patrons, feature and 86-foot stage, 75-foot fly tower and a trap system, and an orchestra pit for up to 70 musicians.

The smaller adjacent playhouse, designed mainly for smaller performances, will seat 252 patrons and feature a 60-foot stage. There will also be three rehearsal studios, which will replicate the two main stages on the complex and support rehearsals, small performances, classes and workshops.

“The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is a long-cherished dream fulfilled and will usher in a new era for George Street Playhouse,” said David Saint, the playhouse's’ artistic director.

NBPAC will also include 30,000 square feet of office space on the two floors above the theater complex, to be owned by Middlesex County and used by arts organizations and private businesses.

Additionally, NBPAC will have 207 apartments, owned and operated by Penrose, and featuring amenities such as an outdoor roof deck and workout room. In the rear off Bayard Street will be a 344-space parking garage connected to the structure.

Once NBPAC is complete, the American Repertory Ballet will partner with the New Brunswick Public School District to create “Dance Power,” which will serve 1,500 area students each year.

Mason Gross would also be partnering with the NBPAC to use the facilities for year-round educational programs.

Demolition began mid-July and construction has been ongoing, Paladino said.

Though Saint maintained he was excited about the changes, and that the NBPAC was a “long-time coming.”

For now, the George Street Playhouse has relocated to its temporary location at the former site of the Agricultural Museum of New Jersey on College Farm Road. The first show scheduled there is  “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change” on Oct. 10, according to the Playhouse.

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