New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) has made it clear that they want to be in the city's plans for Lower Broadway and the Broadway Arts Center.
Gabe Barabas is the co-founder of the non-profit regional theater located at 179 Broadway, and spoke to the Long Branch Council on Tuesday night.
"I just hope as the economy is recovering that were will there will not be an abandoning of the arts and entertainment district," Barabas said. "It's cultural anchors of that type that really determine the life of an entire community."
The original proposal for the Broadway Arts Center includes almost 200 properties, several vacant lots and 72 acres of the Broadway Corridor and encompasses area east of Liberty Street to Long Branch Avenue. The plan to develop the area also included adding 70 new shops and restaurants, 500 residences and the performing arts theatres.
Long Branch Business Administrator Howard Woolley recently said on Patch that NJ Rep is "in the initial plan (for the Broadway Arts Center) and would certainly be a welcome addition to any new plan proposed."
"We have continued to talk with NJ Rep and to try and help them address their needs," Woolley said.
Barabas said the original plans called for an expansion of the company across the street to include two new theaters, one for children and another for larger productions.
"In looking at our need to expand, (space) has always been our biggest problem," Barabas said. "We only have 70 seats which makes for a very poor business model in long-term survival."
"We have been hanging in there, because we have always had the vision and the hope that we would be able to expand," Barabas continued. "If we don't have a role on Lower Broadway as redevelopment occurs in our backyard, then it's going to present tremendous pressures on us."
Barabas said he understands there is currently a search for a credible developer for the Broadway Arts Center project and said that he believes his own theater has been a "credible" developer as well after spending over $600,000 renovate the building and raised and spent about $7 million as a non-profit.
The financial problems and foreclosure proceedings for Broadway Arts Center developer Broadway Arts Center LLC, have stalled the project, but Woolley has said new developers are now showing interest in the project.
Woolley said he believes the city can get a transfer of ownership for Broadway Arts Center within the next two to six months.
Barabas said he was hopeful the developers would continue to embrace idea of having the arts as a focal point of the Broadway Arts Center.
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