In a deal that will allow Rutgers University to launch a new musical theater program, the university plans to contribute $17 million to a performing arts theater in downtown New Brunswick, pending approval from its Board of Governors.
The board is scheduled to vote Thursday on a partnership between the university, the New Brunswick Development Corporation and the New Brunswick Cultural Center. If approved, the plan will lead to the long-awaited $60 million, 60,000-square-foot New Brunswick Performing Arts Center opening in 2019.
“Rutgers students will have the opportunity to perform for a downtown audience, right next to a professional presenting house, the State Theatre,” said George Stauffer, dean of the Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Rutgers for years has had to tell prospective students that it doesn’t have a musical theater program, something other Big Ten universities, such as Penn State, already offer, Stauffer said. The new facility will also allow Rutgers to expand its existing opera program, he said.
The performing arts center is part of a planned 450,000-square-foot development that will include office space and residential units on the site of the George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theater, which would both be demolished. Both theaters will get performing spaces in the new building.
The center would include two theater spaces, one with 465 seats and a second with 253, according to Rutgers. It would accommodate musical theater, dance, opera, dramatic theater, lectures and other community events.
In other words, New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said, it will be “a rich haven of creation and culture.”
Devco expects the performing arts center to draw an additional 80,000 people to city. Along with the arts center, the redevelopment project is expected to include:
- 30,000 square feet of office space housing Middlesex County arts organizations
- A 207-unit, 18-story residential rental apartment tower
- A 344-space parking garage on an existing parking lot on Bayard Street, currently owned by the New Brunswick Cultural Center and TD Bank
Rutgers’ $17 million contribution will be covered by $10 million from Mason Gross fundraising and $7 million from university reserves and short-term borrowing, according to the university.