There is a new act for regional theater this fall with the opening of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center on Livingston Avenue.
A new home to the celebrated George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theater companies, American Repertory Ballet, and Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, the $172 million redevelopment initiative is a public-private partnership.
Those partners include the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), City of New Brunswick, Rutgers University, Middlesex County, New Jersey Economic Development Authority, New Brunswick Cultural Center, Pennrose, LLC, and New Brunswick Parking Authority.
Central to the 23-story project that includes residential and office units are two new performance spaces: the Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater, a 463-seat proscenium theater designed to accommodate musical and dramatic theater, dance, and opera; and the Arthur Laurents Theater, a 262-seat proscenium theater designed for smaller theatrical and dance performances as well as lectures, community programs, and musical events.
The names reflect benefactors’ gifts to the George Street Playhouse. One is a $5 million gift in honor of Princeton-raised Elizabeth Ross Johnson, the late daughter of Betty Wold Johnson and Robert Wood Johnson III. The other is a $2.75 million gift from Laurents/Hatcher Foundation to recognize playwright Laurents who created the books for the hit musicals “West Side Story” and “Gypsy” and premiered several works at George Street Playhouse.
Designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects, Boston, and occupying the space of the former George Street and Crossroads buildings, the 450,000-square-foot, 23-story center also features 207 luxury residential rental units, with 20 percent designated as affordable housing. The apartments are owned and operated by Philadelphia-based Pennrose LLC.
The center also boasts 30,000 feet of office space, owned by Middlesex County and located on two floors above the theater complex; a 5,400-square-foot front lobby with a bar; and three rehearsal rooms able to replicate the stage spaces of both theaters.
Coordinators say project financing came from a mix of government and private funding that included a $40 million tax credit under the state’s Economic Redevelopment and Growth program, authorized in 2018 by special state legislation.
Financing also involved Pillar Financial/Fannie Mae, Citibank, Investors Bank, Aegon, and Rutgers University, which organizers say helped complete the transaction alongside private equity sources.
DEVCO leaders say it expects the two new theaters to attract larger productions and accommodate more shows, support 120 full-time employees, be a catalyst to increase spending on nonprofit arts and culture organizations, and attract audiences and revenue for local businesses and merchants.
NBPAC materials say the organization anticipates partnering with the Actors Fund to market the new luxury units to graphic artists, actors, musicians, dancers, and theater support personnel and create a 344-space parking garage on a former surface parking lot.
No matter what, there is a new show space and show in New Brunswick.