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Vol. LXV, No. 46
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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Township Backs Arts and Entertainment Zone

Ellen Gilbert

At its Monday evening meeting, Township Committee unanimously passed an ordinance supporting the creation, led by Princeton University, of an Arts, Education, and Transit (AET) zone within the Township. Committeewoman Liz Lempert, whose husband is employed by the University, recused herself from the vote.

Prior to the Committee’s vote, architect Ron McCoy responded to previous concerns expressed about the construction and use of a fly tower at the proposed performing arts center.

A fly system is a system of ropes, counterweights, pulleys, and other related devices within a theater that enables a technical crew to quickly move components such as curtains, lights, and set pieces on and off stage by moving them vertically between the stage and the large opening above the stage. The presence of a fly tower would enable the new performance hall to accommodate a range of theatrical and musical performances that are not currently possible at Matthews.

Mr. McCoy noted that the site of the proposed performance hall drops approximately 40 feet, mitigating the actual height of the fly tower, which will be just under 100 feet. The 150-foot wide performance hall will accommodate between 650 and 800 people, making it larger than the Berlind Theatre, which seats about 360; slightly smaller than Richardson Auditorium, which holds 885 people, and significantly smaller than 1,100 seat Matthews Theatre.

“It’s been a long, and in many ways fascinating process,” observed Princeton University Vice President Bob Durkee, speaking of the many meetings and conversations about the AET that have been held over the last five years. Suggesting, perhaps, that these discussions may have clouded the original intent of the AET zone, he noted that Monday’s meeting “brings back the question of the arts,” and the fact that the AET neighborhood would bring the kinds of facilities that don’t currently exist in Princeton and are infrequently found elsewhere. Princeton Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Melanie Clarke and McCarter Theatre Board of Directors President Brian McDonald both spoke with enthusiasm about the AET’s potentially positive effect on collaborations and the availability of rehearsal space.

In other business on Monday evening. the Committee approved a bid rejection for police vehicles, marking, according to Mayor Chad Goerner, the “first benefit” of last week’s consolidation vote.

A work session on a 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial was tabled for Township Committee’s next meeting, on Monday, December 5.

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