A rendering of a planned performing arts center in New Brunswick’s cultural center. — Courtesy: ElkusManfredi Architects
By Joshua Burd
Rutgers University has approved plans to contribute more than a quarter of the $60 million cost to build a new performing arts center in downtown New Brunswick, part of a larger 450,000-square-foot redevelopment that’s slated to change the city’s famed theater district.
On Thursday, the Rutgers Board of Governors approved the university investment as a partial owner of the 60,000-square-foot New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. The university will provide $17 million toward construction, including $10 million in fundraising from the Mason Gross School of the Arts, which will launch a musical theater program and expand its opera program, and $7 million from university reserves and short-term borrowing.
New Brunswick Development Corp., or Devco, is leading the overall $215 million project, which will also include office space and residential units on the site of the existing George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theatre in downtown New Brunswick.
Construction is expected to begin in August, following demolition of the two existing theater spaces beginning in May, Rutgers said in a news release. The arts center is expected to open for the fall 2019 semester, when Mason Gross will launch its musical theater program.
“This is a tremendous collaboration between Rutgers University-New Brunswick and our home city,” Richard L. Edwards, chancellor of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said in a prepared statement. “Our talented Mason Gross students will be able to perform in a state-of-the-art venue that will draw a wider audience from throughout New Jersey.”
Christopher Paladino, Devco’s president, said the performing arts center is expected to draw an additional 80,000 arts patrons to the city’s cultural center, which already brings in 400,000 people a year.
Along with the arts center, the redevelopment project is expected to include 30,000 square feet of office space housing Middlesex County arts organizations, an 18-story residential apartment tower with 207 units and a 344-space parking garage.
Other project partners include the city of New Brunswick, Middlesex County, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Pennrose and the New Brunswick Parking Authority.
“This makes a very important statement,” Paladino said. “The university and the city and the other cultural assets of New Brunswick are truly partners.”
For more details, see Thursday’s news release by Rutgers.