Middlesex County News

County Commits $12M to New Brunswick Cultural Center Tower

A rendering of the performing arts center slated for downtown New Brunswick.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — When the 22-story performing arts center opens in downtown New Brunswick, two of its floors will belong to Middlesex County.

The Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted an ordinance last night, May 18, that reallocates $17.5 million from previously issued bonds to other projects. Among them is the purchase of two floors of office space, at a cost of $12 million, in the coming mixed-use skyscraper.

The move comes after an earlier $6 million commitment made by the county to what has often been called the New Brunswick Cultural Center redevelopment project, which is slated to replace the George Street Playhouse and the Crossroads Theatre on Livingston Avenue.

Sign Up for E-News

What’s more, the freeholders introduced an ordinance last night that, if adopted on June 15, would enable Middlesex to guarantee $34 million in loans for the project. While the county wouldn’t borrow the money, it would take on the debt in the event of a default of the notes, which would be issued through the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, officials said.

“It’s going to be an economic boon for the city, between the arts, restaurants, jobs, construction and, of course, arts education,” Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said of the redevelopment initiative. “I’m certainly an advocate for this project.”

In addition to the office space, the project is slated to yield two “state-of-the-art” theaters, rehearsal spaces, a lobby and concessions area, an attached parking deck on Bayard Street and 207 apartment units, officials have said. Twenty percent of those residences would be set aside for people with low and moderate incomes, including artists and people involved with theater.

A subsidiary of the New Brunswick Development Corporation, or Devco, has led the effort as the project’s redeveloper.

The multimillion-dollar project is being financed through a web of public and private entities.

Anthony Pannella, the county’s bond counsel, broke down the arrangement last night following a question from a member of the public.

Pennrose, the residential developer, expects to borrow $47 million from Citi Bank. That loan will be administered through the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, which is slated to result in interesting savings, Pannella said.

The state Economic Development Authority intends to provide the project $40 million in tax credits, or $4 million per year over a decade. To gain access to that money immediately, the improvement authority plans to issue bonds, which should also keep down interest, Pannella said.

The New Brunswick Parking Authority has moved to borrow $23 million for the construction of the parking deck, as TAPinto New Brunswick has reported.

Rutgers University has also passed a resolution committing $17 million to the undertaking.

And Middlesex County has also put up money, most recently with its $12 million contribution in exchange for office space, Pannella said.

“I think it’s going to be great for New Brunswick,” Rios said. “I think it’s going to be great for the entire county and beyond.”

But some residents questioned what they considered the steep tab covered by the county. One woman wondered whether the money used to buy office space would be better spent on improving the county’s public-transit system or schools.

The county’s precise plans for the office space are unclear. Business development, communications and arts staffers could move to the new location after construction is completed in two years, county officials have said. But Freeholder Kenneth Armwood said it’s possible that the county workforce development office will move to the tower, making it more accessible to the unemployed.

The number of players involved with the Cultural Center project and their legal representation have stirred questions from at least one resident.

Charlie Kratovil, the editor of the activist community newspaper New Brunswick Today, has expressed concern that Thomas Kelso—the general counsel for Middlesex County who also represents Devco and Pennrose and chairs the New Brunswick Cultural Center—might have a conflict of interest due to those relationships.

Kelso has remained quiet on the issue until last night, when he strongly denied the allegations. He said he has also recused himself from legal work regarding the project on behalf of the county.

“I say shame on you for taking the opportunity to belittle me and put in jeopardy a project that means so much to so many people,” Kelso told Kratovil. “For you to say that I have a conflict is wrong—it’s legally wrong, and it’s factually wrong.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

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 ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 14, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD - The typical sports fan in New Jersey has until 2026 to get excited about professional soccer. That's because the Meadowlands could be the epicenter of the soccer world, a contender to host the World Cup. It could be  an amazing coup for New Jersey, although expect worldwide marketers to try to convince everyone that the big game would be played in "New ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 13, 2018

ATLANTIC CITY - When the Hard Rock Café and Casino opens June 28, a strip club will also open on the property. But this isn't your typical, dark titty bar. No, it is 36,000 square feet of space, about the size of a typical Marshalls. So, figure the place is wall-to-wall strippers, each jiggling for money. That could equal about 300 jiggles per minute on a ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, June 21, 8:00 PM

New Brunswick

Sing-a-Long Grease: 40th Anniversary


Sat, June 23, 7:00 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 "HighPoint.com 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 ...

Couple netted $8M from fake Uggs, designer bags, prosecutor says

June 15, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A Plainsboro couple could face charges of of selling counterfeit designer shoes and handbags, netting $8 million and sending $3 million to people in China, authorities said today.

Yan Shi, 36, and her husband, Weiping Liu, 40, were arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree money laundering and second-degree conspiracy to violate the New Jersey Trademark ...


Hearing Loss Common in School-Aged Children

May 30, 2018

With close to 15% of U.S. children ages 6–19 experiencing hearing loss, New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) notes that May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month is the ideal time for parents to learn more about the sometimes-subtle signs of hearing loss, ways it can affect school-aged children, and where to find help.

“Some children are born ...

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 ...