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BOUND BROOK, NJ-This small Somerset County town’s downtown was largely under water in the wake of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and it has been struggling to rebuild ever since. The effort figures to get a boost with the renovation and conversion of the historic Brook Theater into a multi-purpose performing arts center and theatrical incubator.

The Somerset County Cultural Arts Center, an organization formed the same year as Hurricane Floyd, has agreed to buy the 14,000-sf theater building and an adjacent 3,000-sf warehouse and turn it into a performing arts showcase. And because it’s part of the community’s effort to rebuild itself, the project has plenty of government backing.

The US EDA, for example, is providing $2.4 million in hurricane recovery assistance, according to SCCAC executive director Gerry Appel. The New Jersey EDA, meanwhile, is providing a 10-year, $600,000 loan at an initial interest rate of 3%, with interest only due for the first 12 months. The Somerset County Board of Freeholders is also kicking in a $200,000 grant, according to Appel.

Opened in 1927 as a vaudeville house, the Brook Theater later became a movie house. SCCAC’s proposed uses include professional and amateur theater productions, dance and music presentations and arts incubator activities. Completion and reopening of the facility is slated for early 2005.

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