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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-Officials this week unveiled plans to build a new $275-million, 34-story Downtown tower that would bring commercial and residential uses to the square-block area that currently houses the city’s cultural center. The new building would rise on the block bordered by George and Bayard streets and Livingston Avenue, currently occupied by such venues as the State Theatre and the George Street Playhouse.

“What’s truly exciting is the realization that we’ve come full circle,” says Christopher J. Paladino, president of the New Brunswick Development Corp., who unveiled the plans with Mayor Jim Cahill. “A generation ago, the renovation of the State Theatre and creation of our other theaters set the stage for the incredible economic revitalization that New Brunswick has experienced. We now have the opportunity to use that success to reinvest in the arts.”

The centerpiece tower of what’s being called the New Brunswick Culture Center would have theater- and arts-related uses on its lower two floors, including new 499- and 250-seat theaters that would replace the George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theatre, which would be demolished. The 87-year-old State Theatre, originally built for vaudeville and silent films, would be renovated.

The next dozen stories up would be consist of 300,000 sf of office with 25,000-sf floor plates. And the top 20 stories would be set back and contain condos and apartments, bringing the total building size to approximately 600,000 sf. Onsite parking would be underground.

The arts portion of the site, estimated to cost $44 million to $50 million, would be completed with the help of corporate funding, and officials say they’re already talking to a number of prospective contributors and building occupants. Naming rights are also on the table, and state tax credits of up to $75 million are a possible draw for tenants in the wake of recent legislation in Trenton tied to investment near transit hubs.

“We are able to create new performance venues due to the economic model of the project,” Paladino says. “The office and condominium towers provide the financial foundation for the arts and public space components. And the project qualifies for the recently enacted Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program.”

Demolition of the existing smaller theaters could come as soon as 2009, under current plans, with the new construction taking about two years to build. Projected completion would be late 2011 or early 2012, if all goes according to plans.

The State, George Street and Crossroads theaters would be based on-site, with the latter two occupying the two new smaller auditoriums. The New Brunswick Cultural Center would also be home to the American Repertory Ballet and Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts.

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