State Theatre announces major renovation project, $26.5M campaign to fund it

State Theatre New Jersey is planning extensive renovations for the first time since 1988, it announced Monday, and is already nearing its fundraising goal to make them a reality.

The New Brunswick arts facility said in a news release that it has reached 86% of the $26.5 million project goal of the Next Stage Campaign, with fundraising efforts continuing as it strives to meet its goal and complete the project.

“I would like to thank everyone who has already contributed to this campaign,” CEO and President Sarah K. Chaplin said in a prepared statement. “The outpouring of support and generosity by so many is tremendously appreciated by the State Theatre Board and staff, and will ensure a long future for the arts in our region.”

Alexandra Pais
State Theatre CEO and President Sarah K. Chaplin.

The State Theatre said the plans for the renovations are driven by three initiatives: accessibility and safety, audience and artist experience, and operational efficiency.

Improvements include an elevator for ADA accessibility, accessible seating, new restroom facilities and modernization of both performance and lobby spaces.

“State Theatre is committed to improving our accessibility and operations to ensure the finest experience for live performance and arts education programs in our beautiful, historic venue,” board Chair Scott Fergang said in a statement. “… These upgrades will allow us to continue to serve our community and build audiences for the next 100 years and beyond.”

The theater also said is planning several COVID-19-related measures, including replacement of the HVAC system, installation of thermal scanners and protective barriers and new modular seating to facilitate potential changes in social distancing requirements.

“We are using this time to accelerate the construction timeline and immediately address projects that focus on safety and security for all,” Chaplin said. “State Theatre will be at the forefront in providing a safe and clean environment for the community to experience live performing arts and entertainment in a post-COVID-19 world.”

The Princeton-based architecture and historic preservation firm Mills + Schnoering helped with a planning study, the theater said, and DLR Group and the Somerset office of Turner Construction are working on the design/build phase.

“The State Theatre has entertained audiences for almost 100 years,” New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill, co-chair of the Next Stage Campaign, said in a statement. “This effort will ensure State Theatre continues to offer world-class programming for generations to come.”

The funds raised have come from public and private sources, including partnerships with Middlesex County, as well as corporate, foundation and individual donors. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also served as a major donor during the leadership phase of the campaign.

“These improvements would not be possible without the support of the Middlesex County board of chosen freeholders and all of the generous donors who have supported us during the early stages of this Next Stage Campaign,” Chaplin said.