Rutherford’s proposed redevelopment plan for the Williams Center property contains two options- multiple housing units, or a boutique hotel. Both require a theater component. The plan includes a key incentive for developers to preserve the Newman Theatre- a maximum height increase of an additional two stories.
Preserving the Newman Theatre would create a developers dream opportunity.
Located in the heart of Rutherford’s downtown, surrounded by dozens of restaurants and shops as well as a nearby park and bike path
Two blocks from NJTransit train and 24 hour bus access
Rutherford is already a big destination for the area. It’s Labor Day Street Fair attracts 20,000 visitors each year. St Patrick's Day sees a huge parade on Park Ave, with a packed after party. The annual Multicultural Festival is a big draw, as well as a range of community events held in Lincoln Park. The Arts Council and the Pride Alliance are planning an Arts + Pride Festival for 2022.
Having a performance venue would drive additional traffic, and create the need for visitors to have a place to stay
A boutique hotel would provide such a place- AirB&B is banned in town
Discussions are happening to build a parking garage across the street. Until then, multiple creative parking solutions nearby exist
The borough is beginning the process of repealing its dry laws, allowing the space a much needed liquor license
A boutique hotel in place of housing would provide tax revenue for the borough without added strain on its schools
A 650-900 seat historic hall with removable seating would be the ultimate revenue generator for a developer. The theater could be booked for national touring shows, concerts, and performances, while the hotel could rent it to guests as a conference hall or wedding venue
The plan allows for an outdoor rooftop bar. The location would provide a stunning view of NYC and surrounding neighborhoods.
Picture a wedding at this hotel. Guests could drive or take public transit- a block of rooms has been booked for them. They are charmed by the local artist exhibit in the lobby as they check in. Guests would spend the day exploring downtown- grabbing a coffee from Erie Bakery, wandering through Lincoln Park, having dinner at Paisanos while the family has the rehearsal dinner at the hotel's restaurant. Afterwards, everyone would mingle at the hotel bar.
On the big day, the wedding ceremony and cocktail hour is held on the roof, as the sun sets over NYC and Rutherford below. Then guests would take the elevator downstairs to the reception, marveling at the gorgeous crystal chandelier and incredible plaster work. On stage, a live band serenades them until late in the evening. They might even order a nightcap or a snack from room service. The next day, they walk over to Sonoma Bistro for brunch, and grab a few trinkets from Goffins to remind them of their stay.
Unfortunately, the proposed plan includes the option of a smaller theater component (without the height bonus). This option is designed to provide a developer with flexible opportunities to protect their investment. We at STWC believe that it would be in Rutherford AND a future developers best interest to choose to preserve the historic Newman Theater for a variety of reasons:
The acoustics in the theater are unparalleled and cannot be replicated
The theater, with some careful restoration guided by historic theater experts, would be beautiful and more interesting than a generic conference hall
Hotel guests and community groups would pay top dollar for a unique, historic venue
A smaller theater would be unable to book touring shows and concerts that would provide the revenue needed to keep the space financially viable
Rutherford already has a similarly sized auditorium at the high school. This eliminates the need for the residents to book the proposed theater component for community events such as graduations and school plays
Similarly sized theaters throughout New Jersey are only successful because they are part of a theater complex, with multiple sized venues ranging in size from 50 seats-1000+. They don’t survive on their own. STWC can provide further information on venue sizes to interested parties.
We understand that preserving such a large space seems like a daunting task. A developer who is unfamiliar with the entertainment industry might not see the value in a run down old theater, or the financial opportunities it allows. Here are some examples of how the Newman would make money for a developer:
A larger theater would attract corporate investors. Naming rights alone would generate $350k-$1 million per year.
Theaters make money off of ticket sales, concession sales, and rental fees. Major network TV shows would pay upwards of $10k/day to use the space. (Dozens have already asked, and been turned down by Bergen County.)
Theaters also generate revenue through equipment rental, arts grants, corporate and public donations, and educational revenue. A managing director would be responsible for chasing down funding opportunities.
Pairing the theater with a hotel protects the developers investment by providing separate streams of income.
STWC believes that preserving and restoring the Newman theater would provide a huge ROI. We urge interested developers and investors to contact our Mayor and Council.