RFP: Private partner wanted to restore and revitalize historic downtown “Wonder Theatre” in Jersey City, New Jersey

In Jersey City, New Jersey, the Loew’s Jersey is one of five “Wonder Theaters” built in the tristate area in the late 1920s by the Loew’s Corporation, which had created and owned MGM Studios, and was at the time one of the most important presenters of both live stage shows and movies.

Now, on June 11, 2020, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop joined the Friends of Loew’s (FOL) to announce a new joint endeavor for an exciting new chapter at the iconic Loew’s Theatre in Journal Square: it will be restored in a way that will maximize the historic landmark’s potential.

City officials, in cooperation with FOL, are issuing a Request For Proposals (RFP) with the goal of boosting programming as well as supporting significant restoration and improvement of the theatre, listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

As the city moves forward with a renewed relationship with the community-based nonprofit organization, the Loew’s Jersey is poised to achieve new heights as a major regional arts and entertainment venue. The city is accepting proposals for the redevelopment, operation and management of the Loew’s, in fusion with FOL, that not only satisfy the objectives of the theatre’s Redevelopment Plan, but also align with the Administration’s overall commitment to stimulating responsible reinvestment in the city and enhance quality of life.

The historic Loew’s will be an integral part of the revival and rehabilitation of the Journal Square area – Jersey City’s historic city center and one of the busiest transportation hubs in the region. The renovation is projected to cost nearly $40 million, with the city incorporating alternative financing such as historic tax credits, contributions from local developers, and other financing sources.

While the Loew’s Jersey is in operable condition and is currently open in limited capacity, it does require additional restoration and renovation to allow for full occupancy, improvement and modernization of production capabilities to expand the number and scale of productions, and increased patron comfort. Ultimately, the city’s vision is to expand the operation of the Loew’s as a cultural and entertainment venue in which major commercial programming is presented regularly while maintaining and growing the diverse additional affordable programming — such as local arts, theatrical, dance, multi-cultural, educational, film, and community-related shows, events, and activities.

The RFP seeks to find a commercial promoter and venue operator to partner in programming the Loew’s and bring a regular schedule of major national and international acts that will add to the diverse arts, community, and film shows already presented by FOL.

Colin Egan is a founder of Friends of the Loew’s established to preserve and reopen the Loew’s, and as its director he has been in charge of FOL’s programming since. “I think we can create a practical partnership between FOL as a dynamic, community-based arts organization, and a major commercial promoter/venue operator so we can create something more expansive, successful, and contributory to our community than would be possible by either alone,” Egan said. “FOL is committed to the goal of having the Loew’s host a regular schedule of commercial programming for the affordable enjoyment of area residents, and also as a means to provide support for the Theatre and other programming in it.

The majestic and historic Loew’s Jersey Theatre was called “The Most Lavish Temple of Entertainment In New Jersey” when it opened at Jersey City’s Journal Square nearly 91 years ago for its soaring ceilings, coffered gold ceilings, plush red drapes, more than 3,000 seats, large stage for live shows, and large screen for movies. The Loew’s ceased presenting a regular schedule of live shows in the mid-1930s in the wake of the advent of talking pictures and the need to cut costs during the Great Depression. But the Loew’s continued as a first run movie house, remaining an iconic local venue for decades, well past the time that many of its contemporaries were closed.

In 1973, the Loew’s Jersey was converted into a triplex to reflect the changed business model of motion picture presentation. In 1986, the Loew’s Jersey was closed, sold and slated for demolition, but FOL was formed and called for the Theatre to be reopened and restored as a multi-discipline arts and entertainment center. Jersey City joined in this vision, and in 1993 bought the Loew’s Jersey. It has since remained underutilized.

There have been many roadblocks over the past several decades which is why the theatre has remained underutilized, but we’ve come to the point where we will make the turn to revive the Journal Square gem that has unparalleled history and untapped potential… until now,” concluded Mayor Fulop.

Proposals due: July 31, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. EDT.

Photos courtesy of the City of Jersey City.

See the full RFP.

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