NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The curtain is about to go up on one of the most ambitious projects in the city's history.
The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, a $172 million high-rise that will become the hub for the city's vibrant arts community, will officially open Thursday when the Crossroads Theatre Company performs "Paul Robeson."
There will be a celebration tonight leading up to Thursday's opening night. On Thursday, there will also be a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Before the curtain goes up and the lights go down, here are five things to know about the center.
1. It will have a busy schedule.
The center will feature four resident companies - American Repertory Ballet, George Street Playhouse, Rutgers University Mason Gross School of Arts and Crossroads Theater Company.
However, in an interview with TAPinto New Brunswick a few weeks ago, DEVCO President Chris Paladino said the center could host other shows on other nights. He said it could be home to anything from jazz concerts to poetry readings to comedy shows.
2. It will be a boon for New Brunswick's economy.
Paladino said this state-of-the-art center will attract theater fans from around the region who are "thirsty for a diverse arts and culture environment."
Paladino estimates that the influx of traffic to the city's restaurants and hotels will create about $20 million a year for the local economy.
3. You might be able to watch rehearsals.
There's much more to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center than just two new stages.
It's also an office building with 30,000 feet of county-owned space on the two floors. This area is earmarked for use by arts organizations and potential private sector groups.
Perhaps the most unique feature is the rehearsal space, which is housed in a long room with wall-to-floor glass windows overlooking Livingston Avenue. Patrons at the nearby Heinrich Hotel will get an especially good view of rehearsals.
4. The two theaters are designed to offer very different experiences.
The 255-seat Arthur Laurents theater was created to be cozier and more intimate with smaller theater programs and dance performances in mind.
This is where "Paul Robeson" will open starting Thursday night.
The Elizabeth Ross Johnson theater next door is the 465-seat big room. The 75-foot-tall ceilings offer a grander experience. Plus, it comes replete with a double orchestra pit with a hydraulic lift is able to lift the orchestra up.
5. Mayor Jim Cahill should get a lot of credit.
Paladino said that for years and years, while the Performing Arts Center went through several stages of development - sometimes on hold, sometimes on the front burner - Cahill would not leave a meeting without asking about it. His persistance saw the project through, Paladino said.