Newark Symphony Hall (NSH), New Jersey’s largest Black-led arts and entertainment venue, today unveiled designs for its exterior renovation – part of a five-year, three-phase $50 million project set to wrap on the venue’s 100th birthday in 2025. The design, from Trenton, N.J.-based architectural firm Clarke Caton Hintz (CCH), includes a new marquee and streetscape. Design upgrades make Broad Street – a gateway into the state’s largest city – a distinct visual marker highlighting Newark’s creativity and ingenuity.
NSH – located at 1020 Broad St. in Newark – was built in 1925 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. In addition to restoring the building’s façade, the renovation will reimagine the city block – adding bike lanes, improved curbing, a central island and transportation access.
“With the help of historic preservation experts Clarke Caton Hintz and our wider project team, we’ll be revitalizing our corner of Broad Street while modernizing – and paying tribute to – our historic venue, an anchor institution for the city,” said Taneshia Nash Laird, president and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, and the sole Black female leader of a performing arts center in New Jersey.
CCH’s work includes historical and contemporary design influences that match the venue’s longstanding presence in the “Brick City.” Specifically, the hall’s new marquee is reminiscent of the one that stood at NSH between the 1960s-70s. The translucent dome will shine directional light onto the building’s columns – making it a “beacon” for Broad Street. The canopy face will be lit with LED bulbs and an illuminated “Newark Symphony Hall” sign.
“Our partnership with Taneshia and the folks at Newark Symphony Hall has been wonderful, and we very much appreciate the opportunity to breathe new life into such hallowed ground,” said John Hatch, FAIA, principal with CCH. “Our idea behind the entry canopy/dome is to think of it as a delicate yet bold structure, a kind of beacon that lights-up the entire entry sequence and invites everyone to come in. The dome’s curved glass and chevron shape, along with the creative streetscape, make the hall a gathering agent and, surely, one of the city’s most unique and historic attractions.”
Design features also include a series of in-ground directional LED up-lights to wash onto the façade from the sidewalk. This will be accompanied by new streetlights with “tear-drop” light fixtures in front of the building – matching other sections of Broad Street.
Another standout design element is the “NSH Plaza” in front of the hall – functioning as a crosswalk for pedestrians. Also, a public works and public art component involves large “NSH” letters set into the pavement celebrating NSH’s artistic history. Each letter of the abbreviation will house a word-cloud consisting of the hall’s prominent musical alumni.
NSH, located in an Opportunity Zone, expects the renovation to be financed by philanthropy, historic tax credits and other state and federal programs. NSH is currently fundraising for this building envelope and marquee work. The venue has engaged both the Newark Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, along with the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office – which retains project oversight from a $750,000 N.J. Historic Trust Grant awarded to the venue in November 2020.
Nash Laird added: “The unveiling of our design is just one step toward reaching our final mark in 2025. Through immense determination and collaboration at the city, state and federal levels, we know that this will be a monumental project and one that will spur job growth and engagement, particularly for BIPOC artists and individuals in our great city and across the Tri-State Area.”
The entire renovation is set to create 500 jobs and assist 50 local small businesses.
CCH is also preparing an interior space plan to accommodate building tenants beyond Newark Performing Arts Corporation, the nonprofit that operates NSH. As part of the five-year project, NSH will also improve as much as 50,000 square feet of tenant space, including reactivating an entire floor of the hall that has been dormant for more than 30 years. Design specifications also include accessible restaurant space on the street level.
Last fall, NSH created a volunteer-based, seven-member Investment Committee to shape oversight policy and provide fund-management guidance – with members from Goldman Sachs, AllianceBernstein and more. Members will help the venue achieve fundraising milestones, including the planned renovation. In March 2021, the venue also announced the creation of “The Lab,” its business incubator and career accelerator program for live and filmed performance. The program kicks off with resident company, Yendor Theatre Company (YTC), which will stage Richard Wesley’s “Black Terror” this fall.
NSH is owned by the City of Newark and operated by the nonprofit Newark Performing Arts Corporation. Some of the Symphony Hall’s legendary acts over the years have included Placido Domingo, The Rolling Stones, Amalia Rodrigues, Celia Cruz, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, among others.