Council to Consider $18.5M in Bonds, Tax Abatement for Performing Arts Center

New Brunswick's incoming performing arts center Credits: Devco

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The City Council could choose to fund $18.5 million in work on New Brunswick’s incoming performing arts center tonight, according to a proposed ordinance.

Along with that move, the council is scheduled to vote on a tax-exemption agreement for the developer of the $169 million project slated for Livingston Avenue and an ordinance that would allow the city to back $23 million in loans for the New Brunswick Parking Authority.

The governing body is set to meet at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall. At that time, members of the public may comment on and ask questions about the proposed ordinances.

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One ordinance would enable New Brunswick to borrow $18.5 million to pay for improvements associated with the so-called Cultural Center redevelopment project, according to the document.

The move would amend the city’s capital budget and require no down payment, according to the ordinance. The bond’s useful life would span 40 years, the document states.

Plans for the performing arts center call for a 22-story tower where the Crossroads Theatre and George Street Playhouse have stood for decades.

It would include two theaters, which officials have described as “state-of-the-art,” rehearsal spaces, two floors of office space for Middlesex County’s government and more than 200 apartment units. Officials also intend to build a connected parking garage on nearby Bayard Street.

Another ordinance would approve a long-term tax exemption for the developer, a subsidiary of the New Brunswick Development Corporation, better known as Devco. Should the council adopt that ordinance, the move would also authorize the city to strike a financial agreement with the developer.

A company called NBPAC Management is slated to manage part of the facility, according to the ordinance. That entity would consist of Rutgers University, the New Brunswick Cultural Center, Devco, the American Repertory Ballet—which plans to move into the new building—and the George Street Playhouse, the ordinance states.

Those organizations don’t need to pay taxes because they are either government institutions or nonprofits, the document reads.

A private development and management company called Pennrose, meanwhile, is in line to oversee the residential portion of the project, according to the ordinance.

New Brunswick is “agreeable to granting a long-term tax exemption” for the residential and theatrical portions of the project, according to the ordinance. Instead of paying taxes, the ordinance notes, those organizations would need to pay “one or more annual service charges” to the city.

It’s unclear how much money each group would pay each year. The city didn’t immediately respond to a request for that information, and the council declined to discuss the matter at its June 7 meeting.

The tax agreement could span 30 to 35 years, according to the ordinance.

The third ordinance would authorize the city to guarantee $23 million in bonds issued by the New Brunswick Parking Authority, which stands to own the 344-space garage connected to the project.

The authority plans to pay for the construction of the parking deck by issuing bonds.

New Brunswick officials believe the city’s backing would secure that money “at the lowest possible interest cost,” according to the ordinance. In exchange, the city would “guarantee the timely payment of the principal of and interest on” the bonds, according to the document.

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