Middlesex County Eyes Spending $12M on 2 Floors in Cultural Center Tower

An architect discusses on May 1 plans for a downtown performing arts center in New Brunswick.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — If all goes as planned, Middlesex County will own two floors of office space in the performing arts center that’s slated to sprout in downtown New Brunswick.

The Board of Chosen Freeholders introduced an ordinance last week that would take $17.5 million from previously issued bonds to buy the real estate on Livingston Avenue and pay for various road improvements and engineering services throughout the county, according to the document, which TAPinto New Brunswick obtained yesterday.

The purchase of office space in the New Brunswick Cultural Center redevelopment project is projected to cost $12 million, County Administrator John Pulomena said during the board’s May 4 meeting.

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“The investment we’re making there is directly related to having ownership of two floors to put our people there for many years to come,” he said.

Middlesex officials have already committed $6 million to fund the $167 million project, which stands to yield a 22-story tower with two performance theaters, multiple rehearsal spaces, office space and 207 apartments. A conjoined parking garage would also crop up on Bayard Street, according to the New Brunswick Development Corporation, better known as Devco.

County staffers who work in art and culture would relocate to the building after construction cedes in July 2019, Pulomena said.

Business-development and communications employees might also move to the performing arts center, Pulomena said.

When questioned by a resident about the price tag, Pulomena said the acquisition will save taxpayers money by avoiding the need to lease office space. Over 20 years, he said, leasing could run double the cost of buying property.

“It’s more effective to own our own facilities than to lease space and get no value to that,” he added.

Freeholder Charles Kenny said the board considered buying just one floor in the building. But because Middlesex officials “don’t know the future needs” of the county, they thought it best to not limit themselves to one floor, he said.

Should some office space wind up vacant, the county could use it to make money, Pulomena said.

“Where we are not going to use the space, we have the ability to lease that space out and use that money to fund the day-to-day operations,” he said.

The remaining money covered by the proposed ordinance would finance capital improvements in the majority of the county’s municipalities. That list includes upgrades to Ryders Lane and Clifton Avenue in New Brunswick.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the freeholders’ 7 p.m. May 18 meeting in the county administration building on Bayard Street, New Brunswick. Residents may ask questions about or comment on the move at that time.

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