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Middlesex County invests $3.5 million to create Metuchen Arts District

Middlesex County officials announced a $3.5 million grant to develop the Metuchen Arts District during the Metuchen Country Fair on Oct. 6.

METUCHEN — Some $3.5 million of endless opportunities lie ahead as Metuchen officials move forward with the creation of the Metuchen Arts District.

Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios joined Metuchen Mayor Jonathan M. Busch on Oct. 6 during the Metuchen Country Fair to announce the county is allocating a $3.5 million grant from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund to help create the Metuchen Arts District.

“It’s the single largest grant given to Metuchen,” Busch said.

The district would include the Forum Theater along Main Street; and the corner of Amboy Avenue, which is a current abandoned gas station.

“The Forum Theater is deep rooted in memories,” Busch said.

Since the borough embarked on a proposed Metuchen Arts District journey in August, the mayor said people have shared countless stories from first dates and throwing popcorn at each other when they were growing up to performances and recitals at the theater.

“The Forum Theater has been a Metuchen community landmark since its opening in 1928,” he said. “With the collaboration of Middlesex County, we will ensure the preservation and restoration of the Forum and continue the ongoing revitalization of downtown Metuchen. This is a unique opportunity to reactivate one of the few remaining historic theaters in Middlesex County as a venue for arts, culture and history that will contribute to the arts resurgence in Metuchen and Middlesex County for generations to come.”

Metuchen’s proposed new arts district would include a renovation of the 450-seat Forum Theater, as well as the conversion of the gas station next door into a contemporary indoor-outdoor event space and dining area called “Spot.”

Busch said the proposed district would not only restore the Forum Theater and create an art hub, but also create potential sustainable revenue, which would lead to greater economic development and benefits for Metuchen and the county alike in parking fees and advertisements.

The mayor added since the space would be a public entity, a special concession liquor license could be considered for an interested restaurant group.

“The ideas are endless,” he said.

Rios said Middlesex County should strive to enrich lives, encourage new ideas and inspire young residents to think creatively.

“I wish to thank Mayor Busch and the Borough Council for partnering with us to expand the role of culture, history and the arts throughout Middlesex County,” Rios said. “With the help of the developing Metuchen Arts District, the ‘hole in the donut’ will be at the center of it all.”

During the announcement, Rios and Busch were joined by Freeholder Deputy Director Charles Tomaro, Freeholder Shanti Narra, Freeholder Charles Kenny, Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex) and state Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) and members of the Metuchen Borough Council.

The county’s Cultural and Arts Trust Fund was established in 2015. The freeholders established the fund when county residents voted to allocate more funding toward arts, cultural and historic venues, programs and education.

For more information, visit www.middlesexcountynj.gov.

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