3rd Time’s a Charm? New Brunswick Performing Arts Center Gains Approval

A rendering of one of two theaters approved in the Cultural Center redevelopment project. Credits: Devco
New Brunswick's incoming performing arts center, as seen from across Monument Square Park. Credits: Devco

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Last night’s city Planning Board meeting smacked of the film “Groundhog Day.”

A subsidiary of the New Brunswick Development Corporation, better known as Devco, won approvals during the May 25 special meeting for a $173 million, 22-story performing arts center tower on Livingston Avenue. The Cultural Center redevelopment project stands to yield two theaters, rehearsal spaces, two floors of office space, 18 stories of apartment units and a seven-story parking garage on neighboring Bayard Street.

So why the comparison to the 1993 movie in which Bill Murray’s character perpetually relives the same day? This was the third time—unofficially, at least—that the board green-lit the project.

Sign Up for E-News

The planning board first approved plans for the performing arts center in April. Then officials determined that Steven Lujan, a board member who voted in favor of the application, should have recused himself due to his work for the New Brunswick Parking Authority, a partner in the project.

A New Brunswick official has since said Lujan planned to exit the board.

When Devco, the redeveloper, returned before the panel on May 1, a resident pointed out prior to the vote that another member, Manuel Castenada, works as an adjunct professor for Rutgers University. The college has contributed $17 million to the initiative and will ultimately own a portion of the building, which will be used by its performing arts students.

The board attorney said the connection wasn’t a “direct conflict of interest.” Castenada voted to OK the project.

But when the board reconvened last night, city officials said Castenada shouldn’t have heard the application.

“We thought it was a good thing to do to go back, take a deeper look at it after the meeting,” said Glenn Patterson, the city’s director of planning, community and economic development. “When we did look back … there probably was an issue there, and it’d be best to come back and redo the hearing.”

The removal of Castenada meant the board didn’t have a quorum on May 1, Patterson said. In turn, he said, the meeting didn’t happen—at least officially. Testimony from the April meeting, however, has been placed on the record.

Before last night’s meeting, the board attorney asked members in attendance if they believed they had any conflicts. No one said they did.

In each of the three meetings, Devco and its representatives delivered, more or less, the same presentation. Plans haven’t changed since the first round, they said.

“This is a vastly tremendous project for the city, its future and for the downtown cultural district,” attorney Thomas Kelso, who attended the meeting on behalf of the redeveloper and “all interested parties.”

After construction is finished in summer 2019, the performing arts center will become home to the Crossroads Theatre and the George Street Playhouse. Christopher Paladino, president of Devco, said their existing Livingston Avenue spaces—which will be demolished—had become “terribly inadequate.”

The American Repertory Ballet will also migrate to the Hub City and take up residence in the center.

The new rehearsal spaces should result in more ticketed performances per year, Paladino said. He said the first year stands to bring an additional 50 or 60 shows, along with people and money to boost downtown businesses.

Middlesex County will own two floors of office space. Pennrose, a residential developer, will own and manage the apartment units, officials said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - June 22, 2018

TRENTON - Well, the state Legislature passed a budget yesterday. But that matters little in the overall drama, as it now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy and his sharp red pen. The governor still remains as odds with his Democratic counterparts who left a meeting with him yesterday claiming no progress. He's "completely dishonest with us," charges Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The Jaffe Briefing - June 21, 2018

TRENTON - No one questions that the state pension system is a mess. And that's why some proposed legislation is getting a critical eye. Politico says the Assembly is set to vote on a bill today that it claims is "expressly written" to fatten the pensions of Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) and state Sen. James Beach (D-Camden) without them having to ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 20, 2018

STATEWIDE - What? So you are saying the state's pawn shops, second-hand stores and scrap metal yards are mob-infested? How could that possibly be? Well, just ask the scrappy State Commission of Investigation, which issued the 100-page report yesterday detailing how the mob is encouraging drug addicts to steal items to fuel this in-the-dark industry. Not only are these ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 19, 2018

TRENTON - It is June. That must mean our state lawmakers are yelling at each other over the proposed state budget, which must be adopted by the end of the month or government shuts down. Some media is refraining from coverage of the daily blow-by-blow, as the typical resident just assumes taxes will go up, no matter what. But, here is the latest. Gov. Phil Murphy has his proposed ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 18, 2018

DOWN THE SHORE - If you see all those mega-mansions on the beach, and admit to being just a wee bit jealous, here's something to quietly smile about: All of those glorious homes will likely be underwater.  NJ Spotlight reports rising sea levels make the New Jersey coast particularly vulnerable, with the Garden State ranking second to Florida with the biggest chronic risk ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 15, 2018

JERSEY CITY - Should topless women be allowed in the city?  That's the big issue consuming the City Council these days, as members continue to debate 1980s-era obscenity laws. There was supposed to be a vote at the council meeting on Wednesday, but it didn't happen. Before there is a vote, it appears the goal is to wrangle support of all nine members of the City Council. The nagging ...

Upcoming Events


Sun, June 24, 12:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

York Revolution vs. Somerset Patriots

Arts & Entertainment Sports


Sun, June 24, 12:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Long Island Ducks vs. Somerset Patriots

Arts & Entertainment Sports


Sun, June 24, 1:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Southern Maryland Blue ...

Rutgers-led “Tick Blitz” finds exotic Longhorned Ticks statewide

June 5, 2018

New Brunswick, N.J. - Researchers at  University–New Brunswick’s Rutgers Center for Vector Biology have found exotic longhorned ticks in four New Jersey counties – and confirmed that these northeast Asian ticks have been present in the Garden State since at least 2013.

The new detection of these ticks in Mercer County was made through the first-ever statewide ...

Rutgers football stadium has a new name

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Many still call it Rutgers Stadium.

But for seven years, the university's football stadium has been known as High Point Solutions Stadium, thanks to a $600,000 annual agreement with a Sparta-based company. But, as the company has shifted its marketing, so has the stadium's name.

So, now, Rutgers is officially home to " Stadium" for the 2018 ...

Composer lyrisicist Sondheim at Rutgers, tells would-be writers ‘it’s hard work’

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Acclaimed Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim says his work is less about talent and more about the labor and drudgery of “hard work.”

“It’s not about waiting for inspiration. It’s not about talent,” Sondheim said Friday while speaking before an audience at Rutgers University’s Nicholas Music Center.

“You ...

City recognizes New Brunswick ball player inducted into women’s Hall of Fame

June 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ  - Chris Dailey grew up in the city, and played basketball for St. Peter's High School and  Rutgers University, and was on the team that won a national AIAW championship her senior year in college.

She became an assistant coach at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., then was an assistant to Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz before becoming an assistant coach on ...


New Brunswick journalism teacher offers thanks

June 22, 2018

Dear TAPInto New Brunswick,

As the year comes to a close, I want to offer you my sincere thanks for how you positively impacted my students this year.

In their end of year reflections, the students recounted what it meant for them to get their stories published.  Assignments were no longer something just connected to a grade, it was also connected to their passion.

The positive ...

Promise Culinary School Slates Open Houses June 21 and 22 In New Brunswick with Tours, Tastings, Prizes

June 20, 2018

Promise Culinary School will host open houses for the community and prospective students on Thursday, June 21, from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on Friday, June 22, from noon to 4 p.m. at 211 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick. The events are free and open to the public.

The events will include kitchen tours, demonstrations, tastings, raffles and prizes. Tours and activities will be ...

Ensure Safe Sleep While Traveling with Baby

June 6, 2018

As we approach the summer, there will be plenty of expected travel for families, from visiting grandma at the beach to heading out on a long, well-deserved vacation. 

When staying overnight at a friend’s or family’s place, it is important to maintain the same sleep practices as you do at home. Your baby should be sleeping in a safe, modern crib that meets the latest ...