Plan unveiled for new performing arts center in New Brunswick


An artist’s rendition of the planned performing arts complex in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick’s Theater Row — the only one of its kind in New Jersey — is getting a major facelift. The side-by-side buildings housing the George Street Playhouse and the Crossroads Theatre Company on Livingston Avenue in downtown New Brunswick will be razed, and a new tower will be built that will be their home, among other things.

The plan is for the construction to be completed by July 2019, and for the theaters to be able to host their 2019-20 seasons in the new space.

“In 2019, our residents and visitors will be able to enjoy two brand new state-of-the-art theater spaces complete with a new parking facility and a mixed use tower containing 25 floors of office space and residential units,” said New Brunswick mayor James Cahill at a press conference, today at the Crossroads Theatre. “This $215 million facility will be the new home to George Street Playhouse, the Crossroads Theatre, the American Repertory Ballet and the New Brunswick Cultural Center. We are also working with Middlesex County and (Rutgers’) Mason Gross School of the Arts to see what other opportunities this development might present.”

Funding, he said, “stems from a number of public and private organizations and entities, including the County of Middlesex’s $6 million commitment, and the revenue raised from $40 million in tax credits made possible through the state’s Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Program.”

Both George Street and Crossroads have plays planned for the coming few months; the demolition will begin after they are over. In the two years or so it will take for the new building to be built, the theaters will continue to present plays at other venues. Those venues will be announced on a later date.

The new theaters will have slightly larger capacities than the current George Street and Crossroads theaters, said Chris Paladino, president of New Brunswick Development Corp (Devco), who also spoke at the press conference. The building will also have large rehearsal spaces that will allow the theaters themselves to be used more frequently, as new productions are being rehearsed.

“Some people say to me, ‘Well, you’ve got two theaters. Why are you replacing them?’ ” said Paladino. “We’re adding, nominally, some more seats. (But) the Lyric Theatre, which is the largest theater, will allow us to do opera. It will allow us to do ballet, because of the size of the stage. We’re going to have a real fly space, a real trap space.”

He said he expects that the new building will make it possible for the theaters to present 100 to 150 additional performances per year, beyond what they are currently presenting, and that could include concerts and other offerings.

“We’ve got a lot of dates to fill, and we’d like to find larger segments of the community, coming in and using this facility,” said Paladino.

Also on Livingston Avenue, not far from George Street Playhouse and the Crossroads Theatre, are the State Theatre and the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

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