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Officials celebrate New Brunswick Performing Arts Center construction at groundbreaking ceremony

(l-r): Doug Martin, Artistic Director American Repertory Ballet; Robert Barchi, President, Rutgers; Sen.. Stephen Sweeney; George Zoffinger, Chairman, New Brunswick Development Corporation; Jim Cahill, Mayor, New Brunswick; Christopher Paladino, President, New Brunswick Development Corporation; Thomas Kelso, Chairman, New Brunswick Cultural Center; David Saint, Artistic Director, George Street Playhouse; Anthony Carter, Chairman Crossroads Theatre; Ron Rios, Director, Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The City of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Development Corporation broke ground yesterday on the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center project, a $172 million redevelopment initiative in the heart of Hub City.

The 450,000-square-foot New Brunswick Performing Arts Center will be located on the site of the former George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theater on Livingston Avenue in downtown New Brunswick. The project is a public-private partnership between the City of New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Development Corporation (Devco), Rutgers University, Middlesex County, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the New Brunswick Cultural Center, Pennrose, LLC, and New Brunswick Parking Authority, along with 11 other groups and organizations.

The groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday was attended by community leaders,  local officials and state government leaders.

“The City of New Brunswick and its partner in redevelopment, Devco, will soon be ushering in a new era for our Cultural Center with the construction of these transformative facilities, further bolstering New Brunswick’s legacy as a place where the arts grow and thrive,” said New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill. “The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is an example of Devco and our city’s expertise in leveraging public-private partnerships for maximum benefit to our community as we further our commitment to the arts, housing, economic development, education and job creation. We are excited to join and thank all our partners who have played an integral role in beginning this next chapter of history for our cultural center with this innovative and far-reaching project.”

The new center will be home to the George Street Playhouse, the Crossroads Theatre Company, the American Repertory Ballet, and the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. A new theater complex will include two state-of-the-art theaters designed to accommodate musical theater, dance, opera, and dramatic theater. The Lyric Theatre, which will seat 462 patrons, will feature an 86-foot stage, a 75-foot fly tower, and an orchestra pit that will be able to accommodate 60-70 musicians.The playhouse, designed primarily for theatrical performances and smaller dancer performances, will have 252 seats and will feature a 60-foot stage and contemporary grid system for lighting and sound.

In addition to the two theaters, the main building will also contain three rehearsal studios. Each studio will be designed to support dance, drama, music rehearsals, classes, workshops and small public performances. Office spaces will be located on two floors above the theater complex and will be owned by Middlesex County. The offices will be used by arts organizations and private sector groups.

“Rutgers is excited to be part of NBPAC, and we can’t wait to have our students learn and perform here,” said Robert Barchi, president of Rutgers University.

A 207-unit residential rental apartment tower will feature market rate and affordable apartment units with open floor plans. It will be owned and operated by Pennrose, LLC. The units will be marketed to graphic artists, actors, musicians, dancers and theater support personnel. A 344-space parking garage will also be developed on a former surface parking lot as part of the redevelopment project.

Officials estimate that more than 120 full-time jobs will become available when the facility opens.

“The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is a long-cherished dream fulfilled and will usher in a new era for George Street Playhouse. It is a thrilling opportunity to offer our world-class artists a world-class theater facility in which to create,” said David Saint, artistic director of the George Street Playhouse.

“This amazing arts partnership will bring the best in dance, drama, and opera to the stage and will make New Brunswick the hottest arts destination in New Jersey,” said Douglas Martin, artistic director of the American Repertory Ballet.

The arts center is slated to open in 2019.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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