NJPAC arts district gets $200M Aspire tax credit from EDA

Project, first announced in 2021, includes 350 units of housing plus arts and community center, retail and infrastructure updates to 7.3-acre campus

The transformative plan to create an arts and entertainment district around the New Jersey Performing Arts Center took a huge step forward Wednesday, when it was awarded a 10-year, $200 million tax credit award under the state’s Aspire program, in a key step for a project that would include 350 apartments and new commercial and community spaces.

According to the board memo released by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, construction on the project could begin this summer.

The 7.3-acre riverfront campus, now projected to cost $332 million, will contain both apartments and townhomes with a combined 280 market-rate and 70 affordable units and 12,600 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

The project also calls for NJPAC to revitalize the existing 100,000-square-foot performing arts center building, which opened in 1997 — including a new hub for arts education.

The project also is expected to involve sitewide infrastructure improvements that not only will make the development feasible, but will allow for the new buildings and the construction of several new publicly accessible streets and open spaces.

The nearly $199.7 million Aspire tax credit, which would not be disbursed until after the development is completed, represents 60% of the $332.8 million project cost, according to an authority board memo.

The EDA considered NJPAC’s proposal under its “transformative project” tier — as established by the Aspire statute — which allows for more lucrative awards for larger developments and those that leverage mass transit, college campuses or other economic development assets to provide housing or create jobs.

The plan to create a campus-like district around NJPAC was first unveiled in the summer of 2021. At the time, there was hope that construction could break ground in 2022 and be completed in 2024. A new timeline was not released.

LMXD, an L+M Development Partners affiliate, will be the lead developer on the project, which will contain a high-rise tower and a midrise building with a combined 335 apartments. In addition, there will be 15 low-rise townhomes.

The market-rate units will include 61 studios, 146 one-bedrooms, 49 two-bedrooms and 24 three-bedrooms, while the 20% affordable component will comprise seven studios, six one-bedrooms, 40 two-bedrooms and 17 three-bedrooms.

Other elements will give the district a more campus-like setting, including the Cooperman Family Arts and Community Center.

Situated near the corner of Center and Mulberry streets, the center will serve as a seven-days-a-week facility where most of the activities will be free to the public.

The center is expected to include a 175-seat studio theater for educational initiatives and free community events as well as approximately a dozen multipurpose classrooms at varying sizes.

The center also will include office space for NJPAC staff and numerous rehearsal studios.

There also will be an update to Chambers Plaza, which will be reconfigured into a public park that is open throughout the year and will host outdoor concerts, farmers markets and a winter skating rink.

NJPAC is not financing any of the vertical development. Its application for the Aspire award noted a number of proposed capital sources, including a $184.3 million construction loan from Citibank and a $50 million tax-exempt loan from TD Bank.

Goldman Sachs, LMXD and NJPAC are among the project’s equity sources, which also include federal grants and funds tied to New Market Tax Credits and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

The news was first reported by Real Estate-NJ.