NJPAC’s $336M transformation has begun (SLIDESHOW)

Construction on redesign of arts center’s Chambers Plaza and installation of new Essex County Green are 1st step in 3-year project that will substantially upgrade 12-acre campus

Construction on the redesign of Chambers Plaza — the outdoor space in front of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center — began last week, a first step in the transformative three-year, $336 million redevelopment of the 12-acre campus in downtown Newark.

The redesign of Chambers Plaza and the addition of a new space, Essex County Green, named in recognition of a $5 million grant from the county for this work, will establish a new four-season urban park in Newark’s downtown.

The reimagined space will have facilities — from a new rain garden to new lighting and seating — that will enable programs including performances, markets and classes to be held there year-round. Brooklyn-based landscape architecture studio Future Green designed the new Chambers Plaza.

NJPAC CEO John Schreiber said the impact of the upgrade will be felt for years to come.

“This reimagining of our ‘front yard’ will make it possible for NJPAC to host even more community events and outdoor gatherings,” he said. “We’re endlessly grateful to Ray Chambers and the Chambers family, and to Essex County, especially County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, for their support of this project.”

The work on the Chambers Plaza upgrade is expected to continue through the end of the calendar year, though NJPAC will remain open and accessible throughout construction.

The arts center’s box office, Parking Lot A and Nico Kitchen + Bar all will remain open. Signage along Center Street will direct pedestrians and vehicular traffic to the most easily accessible entry points during the construction work. However, the Arrival Court parking area adjacent to Center Street will be closed.

The refresh of Chambers Plaza is the first piece of a campuswide redevelopment project for NJPAC. The full renovation, expected to conclude by 2027, will include the construction of the Cooperman Family Arts Education and Community Center, designed by the renowned architectural firm of Weiss/Manfredi, on what is now NJPAC’s Parking Lot C, as well as the construction of a new pedestrian-friendly extension of Mulberry Street across the arts center’s campus to Rector Street.

Horizon Sounds of the City still on

NJPAC’s long-running and popular Horizon Sounds of the City free summer concert series will continue this summer, thanks to a phased construction schedule.

The series will have a slightly modified schedule of six performances (instead of the typical eight). Horizon Sounds of the City will begin with an opening night appearance by Felix Hernandez and his Rhythm Revue Dance Party on June 27, as a part of the North to Shore Festival.

The project also includes the establishment of ArtSide, a new mixed-use development that will include 350 residential rental units and retail and cultural spaces along the extension of Mulberry Street. Twenty percent of the residential units in the development will consist of affordable housing.

The ArtSide project, which will include high-rise and low-rise buildings as well as a new headquarters for WBGO, the nation’s premier jazz public radio station, is a joint effort between NJPAC and developers Center Street Owners, a group that includes LMXD and Prudential Impact & Responsible Investments. Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the celebrated architecture firm, is designing the new neighborhood, which will be built on what is now the arts center’s Parking Lot A.

A formal groundbreaking will be held this fall.

“When Gov. Tom Kean and Ray Chambers first imagined NJPAC in the late 1980s, they hoped the arts center would be the center of a beautiful new Newark neighborhood. We are delighted to be making their expansive vision a reality,” Schreiber said. “When the work is completed in 2027, all the new amenities on our campus will contribute enormously to the ongoing revitalization of Newark’s downtown.”