With the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark as a backdrop, business leaders and public officials are gathering this week to weigh the impact of cultural institutions on urban revitalization.
Organizers say the International Conference on Cultural Institutions and Urban Transformation, which began Thursday and continues Friday, is attracting experts and cultural leaders from as far away as Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The event is being hosted by Rutgers University Newark and NJPAC, creating a venue to discuss success stories and best strategies for investments in arts facilities as part of a redevelopment effort.
It’s a topic that NJBIZ tackled earlier this year in a special report on how New Jersey’s towns and cities are being jump-started by the arts. Ann Marie Miller, executive director of the advocacy group ArtPride NJ, said in March that arts and culture nonprofits in the state generate more than $1.5 billion a year in economic activity.
More than $40 million of that comes back to the state in the form of income and sales taxes, she said, highlighting areas such as Red Bank, Rahway and New Jersey.
"It's a burgeoning strategy for getting downtowns more alive and dynamic, so it's happening more than you think," Miller told NJBIZ at the time.
As for NJPAC, area developer Marc Berson said the facility has helped bring Newark back from its darkest days.
"No one would have come to town without what the arts center and what the government did through the state with Gov. (Tom) Kean," Berson, an NJPAC board member, said at the time. "If you want to redevelop a city, you can't just build a building and they will come. You need multiple planes in the air."
This week’s conference comes as Rutgers said it will lease three floors of the redeveloped Hahne & Co. building for an arts incubator. NJ Advance Media reported Thursday the university approved a $25 million plan to lease three floors for studio, classroom and gallery space for campus arts programs, in partnership with Newark artists, schools and other institutions.
The website said Rutgers is taking 57,000 of the building’s 440,000 square feet. The historic site is being redeveloped by Hanini Group and L+M Development.
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