performingarts

Ceremony at Iconic bergenPAC Celebrates Construction Start of DMR-Designed Upgrades

Ceremony at Iconic bergenPAC Celebrates Construction Start of DMR-Designed Upgrades 789 444 DMR Architects

The ceremony also marked the start of a $5 million capital campaign to fund future improvements

DMR joined bergenPAC’s Founder Frank Huttle, III, board members, Congressman Josh Gottheimer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Darlene Love earlier today to celebrate the groundbreaking and $5 million capital campaign to transform the beloved and historic theater into a modern backdrop for the 200 yearly world-class concerts, comedy events, and dance performances that perform there.

Construction on the first phase of the $15 million renovation project has already begun on areas that were designed by DMR to appeal to bergenPAC’s eclectic audience.  The lobby, concessions/bar area, and a new VIP section with its own entrance will boast a hip vibe through the use of raw industrial design elements—bare beams, exposed brick, pendant light fixtures and visible ductwork—juxtaposed to the refined traditional décor expected in a theater setting. The 1,367-seat theater opened in 1926 as a vaudeville and movie theater and is one of the few such buildings still operating in the United States as an entertainment venue.

“The redesign of bergenPAC represents an investment in the incredibly talented local theater and arts community members as well as a catalyst for Englewood’s long-term economic stability,” said Pradeep Kapoor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Chief Operating Officer.  “We’re excited to apply the knowledge we’ve acquired through our work on previous performing arts centers to guide bergenPAC through the redevelopment, design and construction processes that come together to fulfill the modernization of the traditional night at the theater experience.”

At the event, bergenPAC announced that they’ve successfully raised $10 million; $4 million from donors during their silent phase and a $6 million fund from the County of Bergen. bergenPAC hopes to raise an additional $5 million during their public fundraising phase. This campaign will fund additional enhancements to the theater venue as well as its Performing Arts School that boasts alumni including feature film and Broadway actors.

Pictured above at the March 15 ceremony are Mauro Raguseo, Bergen County Improvement Authority; Assemblywoman Ellen Park; Bergen County Commissioner Mary Amoroso; Lloyd Rosenberg, DMR Architects; Valerie Vainieri Huttle, former assemblywoman; Ray Reduce, Ray Reduce Development; Congressman Josh Gottheimer; Darlene Love, Grammy Award winner; Robert Cook, bergenPAC chairman of the Board of Trustees; Frank Huttle, III, bergenPAC founder; Vince Ermitas, student performer, presently Simba in Disney’s Lion King on Broadway; City of Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes; Bergen County Executive James Tedesco, and Dominic Roncace, President and CEO of bergenPAC.

Hackensack PAC Historic Preservation Award

Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center to be Honored with Historic Preservation Award

Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center to be Honored with Historic Preservation Award 789 444 DMR Architects

On May 10 the DMR Architects-designed Hackensack Performing Arts Center received the 2018 Bergen County Historic Preservation Award for the adaptive reuse of the former Masonic Temple at 102 State Street. Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III and the Board of Chosen Freeholders presented the award to the City of Hackensack during the program.

The purchase and rehabilitation of the Masonic Temple was one of the first projects that the City of Hackensack embarked on after adopting its Downtown Rehabilitation Plan in 2012.

“The repurpose of the Masonic Temple into the Hackensack Performing Arts Center was a watershed moment that resulted in attracting dozens of real estate developers to invest in Hackensack’s revival,” Mayor John Labrosse said. “Since then, DMR’s creativity and ingenuity can be seen all over Hackensack from the new traffic patterns to the new open spaces and residential communities coming online every day.”

“Hackensack continues to be the textbook case of what can be accomplished when the City, the County, and private entities work together,” Francis Reiner, PP, LLA, Senior Urban Designer, Redevelopment Consultant and Partner at DMR said. “We’re proud and appreciative that The Bergen County Historic Preservation Society has recognized our collaborative work to resurrect the Masonic Temple into the center of Hackensack’s artistic renaissance.”

The project maintained the look and feel of the 140-year-old building, while bringing it up to modern safety and accessibility standards, which included reinforcing its below-ground footings and foundation to accommodate the shift from its original use as a meeting hall on its first floor, to its new use as a 224-seat theater space and stage on its second floor. It also included a new gallery space on the first floor that shows work from local and regional artists as well as new bathrooms, heating and cooling systems, sprinkler systems, ramps, and an elevator.

New Hackensack Performing Arts Center opens Saturday

New Hackensack Performing Arts Center opens Saturday 960 540 DMR Architects

by Jim Beckerman

The Center, which Jane Monheit and Tony DeSare will inaugurate with a pair of weekend concerts, is seen as a linchpin of a revitalized downtown.

“If you build it, they will come.” That’s true—so far—for the newly completed $3 million Hackensack Performing Arts Center, opening its doors on Saturday.

The gala inaugural event at 8 p.m., a jazz-pop two-fer featuring the vocalist Jane Monheit and the singer-pianist Tony DeSare, sold out quickly. A second show had to be added the following day, 3 p.m. Sunday.

The theater at the Hackensack Performing Arts Center, located at 102 State St. Monday October 30, 2017. (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

But the key thing, says Edward Decker, is that they’ve not only built it — they’ve also built it right.

“You hear that?” says Decker, an officer of the Main Street Business Alliance.

He claps his hands. “That’s dead,” he says.

Dead, in acoustical terms, is a good thing. No reverb. No echo.

“The acoustics, as you can hear, are really wonderful,” says Decker, whose group is co-sponsoring the venue’s flagship series, PAC the House. It’s five events, through June; the Monheit-DeSare jazz program is the first.

(left to right) Hackensack Deputy Mayor, Kathleen Canestrino, Hackensack Mayor, John Labrosse, Vice Chairman of the Main St. Business Alliance, Edward Decker and Chairman of the Main St. Business Alliance, Jerome J. Lombardo pose at the Hackensack Performing Arts Center. The center, located at 102 State St. will officially open on November 11. Monday October 30, 2017 (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

Decker knows from acoustics. He’s the owner of Musically Yours, a Hackensack shop that specializes in DJ and musician’s equipment.

“You don’t want a lot of echoes in the room,” Decker says. “Here, it’s like a pin dropping. You can hear the softest tone of the guitar in the back row.”

It helps that the new auditorium, designed by DMR Architects, is carpeted from top to bottom, with sound baffles in strategic places to help deaden the noise.

That’s part of what gives the auditorium — officially, the Hackensack Meridian Health Theater—its striking look. That, and the decor. The venue’s 224 seats are done up in red, with the outer seats of each row in gray fabric. The lighting, too, is distinctive. Dangling from the ceiling are four Tiffany-ish vintage chandeliers that look like upside-down glass umbrellas.

Details from the top floor lobby are shown at the Hackensack Performing Arts Center, located at 102 State St. Monday October 30, 2017. (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

“They add distinction,” says Greg Liosi, artistic director of HACPAC (as the venue has inevitably been dubbed) and the Hackensack Cultural Arts Department.

“There’s a simplicity to the chandeliers,” Liosi says. “It’s a beautiful aesthetic, but the design has simple lines. It’s very powerful at the same time.”

The chandeliers are a holdover from the 168-year-old building’s earlier career as a Masonic lodge. The imposing red-brick Gothic revival structure was built, in 1849, as the First Methodist Church. By the late 19th century, the Masons had taken it over.

It was purchased by the city in 2011, and became the designated successor to the Hackensack Cultural Arts Center at 39 Broadway, the city’s arts headquarters since 2001. (Hackensack Meridian Health got the naming rights for the auditorium in exchange for contributing a fancy marquee, which has yet to go up).

The Hackensack Performing Arts Center, located at 102 State St. Monday October 30, 2017 (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

“It’s like moving from one home to another,” Liosi says. “You’re sad to say goodbye to the old place, but at the same time you’re so excited to start a new life. In this case, we’re very excited to have the arts start a new life, to be reborn in this space.”

The Broadway site—another old, repurposed church—sat only 117 people in a makeshift black-box auditorium. And it was eight blocks from the center of town. This new venue is a big improvement, Liosi says.

“We were very successful in the other space, don’t get me wrong,” he says. “But this is double the size, and so much closer to downtown. It’s a perfect marriage.”

The drama and dance events, art shows and niche programming that the old arts center was known for will continue to thrive in the new location, Liosi promises. A large downstairs gallery space (currently, 21 pieces by a local artist, Ruth Bauer Neustadter, are on display) can become a multipurpose room. There’s even a large adjacent kitchen—another Masonic holdover—for any wine-and-cheese parties or gala dinners that might come up. It may also be handy for stocking the refreshment bar in the lobby (alcohol will be available for some events).

The lower level gallery of the Hackensack Performing Arts Center, is shown, Monday October 30, 2017. (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

But with the larger venue comes a larger mission: to fill the 224 seats, on a regular basis, with name artists that will appeal to all elements of Hackensack’s diverse population. Among them are many African-American, Hispanic, and Caribbean residents.

“The decision was made to represent the diversity of the city and the county,” says deputy mayor Kathleen Canestrino. “The committee decided to have Hispanic, African-American, Broadway, comedy and mainstream pop [events].”

A lot is riding on this, says Mayor John P. Labrosse Jr.

The new arts center is being fêted as a crown jewel of the new, revitalized Hackensack downtown. As Hackensack rebuilds and upscales, the city fathers have been looking at other cities that have reinvented themselves. Always, it seemed to come back to the arts.

“As you know, we’re going through a major redevelopment phase in Hackensack,” Labrosse says. “We have at least 2,500 new units on Main Street. We went to see what other towns were doing. One developer had a great phase: ‘I’ll bring ’em here, but you’ve got to keep ’em here.'”

Arts and green spaces, he decided, were both key. That’s why Hackensack invested in Atlantic Street Park, a smallish commons area, built for roughly $750,000 on the site of a former parking lot, that opened in July 2015 (there were concerts there all last summer). The Hackensack Performing Arts Center, on an adjacent parcel of land, is a companion project: mayor Labrosse can imagine the whole street, park and arts center combined, being closed off for day-long arts festivals.

The Hackensack Performing Arts Center, located at 102 State St. will officially open on November 11. Monday October 30, 2017 (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

“We kind of got a feel for what was going on in these other towns,” Labrosse says. “Whether it was murals, arts shows, a music or concert venue, a small theater, clubs with music, it was the arts that really helped to keep a town successful.”

But in order to help make Hackensack successful, HACPAC will have to be successful itself.

The trick will be to find the sweet spot: artists big enough to draw an audience, but not so big — and expensive — that the venue can’t possibly make its money back. This is a built-in challenge for all arts venues, whose programming is to a great extent dictated by their size.

For instance, tickets for the PAC the House shows, the venue’s flagship series, range from $40 to $60, with the house split evenly between the two price points. At those admission prices, the venue could not—even if it sold out—break even on an act costing more than $11,200. Less, if you factor in operating costs.

All of which is just to say that Hackensack Performing Arts Center, like any other, has a limited pH range from which to select its marquee attractions: a Goldilocks zone of artists who are not to big, not too small, but just right. Some examples from later in the PAC the House series: a jazz night featuring Alyson Williams with the Nat Adderley Jr. trio (Jan. 27), a pop rock program with John Waite (Feb. 3). a comedy night with Roy Wood Jr. and Michelle Wolf (March 3), and a pop/Broadway event with “Hamilton” star Mandy Gonzalez (June 2).

Vice Chairman of the Main St. Business Alliance, Edward Decker, speaks with Hackensack Mayor, John Labrosse, Chairman of the Main St. Business Alliance, Jerome J. Lombardo and Hackensack Deputy Mayor, Kathleen Canestrino at the Hackensack Performing Arts Center. The center, located at 102 State St. will officially open on November 11. Monday October 30, 2017 (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

But there is also a possible wild card here, Liosi points out. A trend of the moment, it happens, is big stars playing small venues.

The prime example is Springsteen’s current Broadway show. There are others: including Ringo Starr’s appearance last year at the 1,367-seat bergenPAC in Englewood. These top names are sometimes willing to trade a big-stadium paycheck for the pleasure of playing a small venue. Audiences, meanwhile, have been known to pay more to see their idols up close. All of this could work to HACPAC’s advantage.

Especially given those pin-drop acoustics.

“We could use the intimacy of the facility as a selling point,” Liosi says. “Some artists are dying to scale down their show. And there are some audiences that just want to see an artist and a guitar.”

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com.

Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center

DMR Celebrates Completion of the Final Phase of the Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center & Atlantic Street Park

DMR Celebrates Completion of the Final Phase of the Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center & Atlantic Street Park 789 444 DMR Architects

The multi-phased and dynamic Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center & Atlantic Street Park is now complete!

DMR’s relationship with this project began when DMR worked with the City of Hackensack, its professionals and stakeholders to adopt the Rehabilitation Plan for the Main Street Area. In continuing to support the efforts of this plan, DMR again worked with the City in bringing the Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center & Atlantic Street Park to life – a major catalyst project for the revitalization and one that has brought a cultural arts center and public park to the heart of the downtown.

The Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts & Atlantic Street Park encompasses the 140+ year old, former Masonic temple at 102 State Street, and the adjacent site, a former under-utilized surface parking area.

We are proud to join with the City of Hackensack, its professionals and stakeholders in celebrating this exciting accomplishment. For more information on the project, please click here.

To read about the grand opening of the Performing Arts Center, please click here.