Food & Drink

As Theater Demolition Progresses, New Brunswick Looks Toward the Future

9bd1a337e2d5a38c36d7_nbpa_demolition_2.jpg
Workers tear down the Crossroads Theatre this week, as seen from Bayard Street. Its longtime neighbor, the George Street Playhouse, is all but gone.
9bd1a337e2d5a38c36d7_nbpa_demolition_2.jpg

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Walk around downtown New Brunswick during any workday and you'll hear it: the sounds of a changing city.

Workers, perched on cranes and manning excavators, tear into buildings and rubble off Livingston Avenue. Heavy machinery roars, and tumbling building materials rumble. The scatterbrained noise tells passersby that something is going on here.

And that something is the demolition of two heralded New Brunswick venues, the George Street Playhouse and the Crossroads Theatre. The Playhouse is now all but gone. The Crossroads still stands, but its facade is compromised, parts of it resembling a jagged shark bite.

Sign Up for E-News

The two buildings are coming down to make way for the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. The 22-story high-rise will feature two top-notch theaters, rehearsal spaces, offices, more than 200 luxury apartments and, in the rear off Bayard Street, a connected parking garage.

What officials and arts leaders have dreamed of for more than a decade is now coming to fruition. And demolition, which officials said began roughly one month ago, is the first concrete step toward what they hope will be an even better New Brunswick arts scene.

“With every project we do, we think it's going to be the project with the greatest impact—because so many are transformational, and others have had an extraordinary impact on the city,” Christopher Paladino, head of the New Brunswick Development Corporation, or Devco, the redeveloper for this initiative, told TAPinto New Brunswick. “I certainly feel the same way about this project.”



The George Street Playhouse once stood here, its marquee flanked by the trees.

But before anything new goes up, the old must come down.

Devco expects demolition to be completed by the end of this month. Immediately afterward, it plans for workers to begin digging the foundation of the new performing arts center. By mid-September, Paladino said, the project should enter “major construction mode,” with a groundbreaking ceremony targeted for early October.

That fast pace is no accident.

“We have no choice. We have deadlines with respect to our financing,” Paladino said. “We're going to build almost half a million square feet in 22 months.”

Because the mixed-use project uses state tax credits, amid a web of other financial arrangements, the building must be opened by summer 2019, according to officials. That means, in just a couple of months, the area near Livingston Avenue and George Street will become a breathing, buzzing construction site, teeming with masons, bricklayers and iron workers, Paladino said.

Just a few months ago, the Crossroads Theatre was busy putting on shows here.

And in just 12 days, on Aug. 23, he added, the partners in the sprawling project—from Devco and the city itself to Rutgers University and the New Brunswick Cultural Center—expect to close on the financing.

Nearly all of the construction documents are completed. The design work that remains touches mostly on cosmetics, like the look of the theaters' shared lobby, and which colors and fabrics to use, Paladino said.

But the big-picture stuff is in the books.

David Saint, George Street Playhouse's artistic director of 21 years, wasn't exactly sad to see his company's former home destroyed. The old theater—a former YMCA building—offered more problems than it did charm, he said.

The coming performing arts center, meanwhile, could prove a world-class home for Saint and his theater company—and whomever else chooses to host shows there. The American Repertory Ballet, for instance, already announced that it will move into the tower. Rutgers' Mason Gross will also hold performances there.

The remains of the George Street Playhouse.

Given New Brunswick's proximity to New York, it's quite possible that top talents in theater will choose to host early openings of plays bound for Broadway right here, in the Hub City, Saint said.

“It's been a long time coming, and I'm more than excited,” he told TAPinto New Brunswick. “I'm really walking on air about it.”

This point in time reminds Saint of when a top architect flew over New Brunswick many years ago at the request of John Heldrich, a legendary Johnson & Johnson executive who has since died. The architect pointed to a triangle carved out by three roads—Livingston, George and New Street—and declared it a magnet that should house the city's arts center, Saint said.

Decades later, and that arts center remains in the precise spot. But after just a month of demolition work, it's clear that its future won't look much like its past.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Franklin Township

Franklin Township: Tuesday Game Night Party - Family Style board and other games

June 24, 2018

A FUN NIGHT: A GAME NIGHT: A PARTY NIGHT: A SOCIAL AFFAIR.

SOMERSET, NJ - DNA's Music will be hosting its weekly 'Tuesday Game Night Party' at De Island Breeze at 676 Franklin Boulevard, doors open at 6:30 pm. 

Organizers say the weekly event is a night to socialize with friends while engaging in logical and strategic, or not so strategic games.

"This is not only a ...

Suspect in Union Carjacking Takes Own Life in Hillside

June 23, 2018

UNION, NJ – A Baltimore man ended up taking his own life in the Hillside Police Department after he was arrested for a suspected attempted carjacking in Union Friday afternoon.

The Maryland man, Jermaine Covington, 41, was arrested and used an officer’s service weapon to take his life, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Saturday.

Covington left the scene ...

'Luggage Factory' Could Be Hunterdon's First Pot Shop

RARITAN TWP., NJ – A question about opening a marijuana dispensary on Route 202-31 has prompted officials here to consider whether they want such businesses in the township.

An informal inquiry was made to the township’s Planning and Zoning Department about locating such a business in the former Luggage Factory building, Mayor Mike Mangin said at Tuesday’s Township Committee ...

Edison Police Seek Help Finding Missing 14-Year-Old

EDISON, NJ - A 14-year-old Edison girl who ran away from home on May 3 has yet to be found and police are asking anyone with information about her to come forward.

Edison detectives are leading a statewide search for the girl, Jalaysia Staplar-Evans. They believe she could be staying with friends or acquaintances in Newark or the Essex County area, said Edison Police Lt. Robert ...

Police Issue Alert for Missing New Brunswick Girl (FOUND)

Update: According to New Brunswick Police Department Capt. JT Miller, Tomesell has been located.  

NEW BRUNSWICK - Police today issued a plea for the public’s help in finding a missing 13-year-old girl.

Payton Tomesell, was last seen on Wednesday at 18 Abeel St., authorities said.

The girl suffers from anxiety and depression, and is taking medication, police ...

Bridgewater Police: Avoid Mall for Ongoing Police Investigation

UPDATE: According to a Nixle alert from the Bridgewater Township Police Department at 9 p.m., the investigation at the mall has been completed, and the mall will be resuming normal business operations.

Police emphasized that there is no immediate threat to the public and no injuries were reported.

Keep checking back for more information.

Related article: Bridgewater Mall Shut Down ...

Students Lead ‘Die-In’ at Congressman Lance’s Westfield Office; Summit Boy Arrested

WESTFIELD, NJ — Seventeen-year-old Summit High School student Ben Schachter was taken away in handcuffs Tuesday during a gun safety “die-in” protest led by local high school students at Congressman Leonard Lance's Westfield office. Lance was not present at the office at the time.

Read: Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman Talks Gun Violence, School Safety, ...

Suspect in Union Carjacking Takes Own Life in Hillside

June 23, 2018

UNION, NJ – A Baltimore man ended up taking his own life in the Hillside Police Department after he was arrested for a suspected attempted carjacking in Union Friday afternoon.

The Maryland man, Jermaine Covington, 41, was arrested and used an officer’s service weapon to take his life, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Saturday.

Covington left the scene ...

'Luggage Factory' Could Be Hunterdon's First Pot Shop

RARITAN TWP., NJ – A question about opening a marijuana dispensary on Route 202-31 has prompted officials here to consider whether they want such businesses in the township.

An informal inquiry was made to the township’s Planning and Zoning Department about locating such a business in the former Luggage Factory building, Mayor Mike Mangin said at Tuesday’s Township Committee ...

Edison Police Seek Help Finding Missing 14-Year-Old

EDISON, NJ - A 14-year-old Edison girl who ran away from home on May 3 has yet to be found and police are asking anyone with information about her to come forward.

Edison detectives are leading a statewide search for the girl, Jalaysia Staplar-Evans. They believe she could be staying with friends or acquaintances in Newark or the Essex County area, said Edison Police Lt. Robert ...

Hillsborough: Rain or Shine the Show Goes on at Sourland Music Festival

June 22, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The music always plays on at the Sourland Music Festival - rain or shine.

There is a chance of rain in Saturday's forecast, but the show will go on.

Organizers suggest Consider bringing a pop-up, umbrellas and towels with your beach chair and refillable water bottle. Rain did not dampen the spirits of 2017 Sourland Music Fest guests - it provided unplanned ...

Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity Opening ReStore in Manville

MANVILLE, NJ - Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity is opening a Habitat ReStore in the Marketplace at Manville, next to Walmart on North Main Street in Manville, this fall.

At the store, RVHFH will pick up gently used furniture and goods from Somerset and Hunterdon county residents, and give them a second life at the store's grand opening.

To schedule a time for RVHFH to pick ...

Summer Camp Programs for Children and Teens Announced By Environmental Education Center

BERNARDS TWP., NJ – Each summer, the Environmental Education Center (EEC) in Basking Ridge holds programs that let children and teens explore nature for summer activities that both entertaining and an opportunity to learn about the environment.

The programs are organized and led by the EEC's staff of naturalists.

The EEC is a Somerset County facility located at 190 Lord ...

Hillsborough: Rain or Shine the Show Goes on at Sourland Music Festival

June 22, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The music always plays on at the Sourland Music Festival - rain or shine.

There is a chance of rain in Saturday's forecast, but the show will go on.

Organizers suggest Consider bringing a pop-up, umbrellas and towels with your beach chair and refillable water bottle. Rain did not dampen the spirits of 2017 Sourland Music Fest guests - it provided unplanned ...

Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity Opening ReStore in Manville

MANVILLE, NJ - Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity is opening a Habitat ReStore in the Marketplace at Manville, next to Walmart on North Main Street in Manville, this fall.

At the store, RVHFH will pick up gently used furniture and goods from Somerset and Hunterdon county residents, and give them a second life at the store's grand opening.

To schedule a time for RVHFH to pick ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast Episode 17

On this week’s AtlantiCast, it’s National Men’s Health Month, so check out important health tips for you or the men in your life, learn about groundbreaking research into breast cancer treatment that could mean an end to chemotherapy for some patients, meet a local sports hero who’s living his baseball dreams thanks to Goryeb Children’s Hospital and much ...