It’s unclear what the city has in store for the 4,500-square-foot building. Mayor Samson Steinman and City Administrator Cherron Rountree did not return messages seeking comment.
UPDATE, Aug. 30: In a brief interview after tonight’s Planning Board meeting, the mayor said an announcement is expected next month regarding a new management entity for a gallery and educational programming at the Arts Guild building but declined to go into detail.
The 0.8-acre property (Block 164, Lot 1) is assessed for a total $514,500, according to property records, but is exempt from property taxes since it is owned by the city. The Redevelopment Agency owns an adjacent vacant parcel (Block 164, Lot 29) along Irving Street that was acquired in 2006 for $135,000 for a future undetermined use, potentially related to the Guild building if necessary.
In 2010, the Redevelopment Agency entertained a presentation for a concept plan for shipping container artist housing on the Arts Guild property. The presentation was merely preliminary and nothing ever came of it. UPDATE: Executive Director Leonard Bier said in an email Wednesday that the agency has no plans for the Arts Guild property. Reached by phone Tuesday evening, the mayor said he did not have time to talk and would would return my call later.
In a brief telephone interview today, Executive Director Lawrence Cappiello explained that he met on Thursday with the mayor who informed him that the city would not be renewing the lease after determining another use for the property and the Guild would have to vacate by Sept. 1. It’s unclear what the new use for the property would be.
In 2006, the Guild agreed to a 10-year lease with the city and the option of two five-year extensions, according to Cappiello. He said he wrote to city officials last October to express interest in renewing the option for five years, and inquired several times this year, but never got an answer.
In a message to supporters today, the Arts Guild wrote that all programs are canceled as of today and if it’s “able to secure a new suitable property and the resources to develop it, they may reopen at a later date.” Cappiello said that has not yet been decided and the board is scheduled to meet on Thursday. The guild’s website will stay online until the end of the year.
The Arts Guild of New Jersey, which until several years ago went by the name Arts Guild of Rahway, presented a variety of programming, including art exhibitions, adult and children’s art classes, arts education, jazz concerts, classical music, independent film, animation, and more.
A little history on the Arts Guild building, via Cappiello:
The Arts Guild building dates back to 1869, after a membership library association was formed in 1858. In 1944, it became Rahway’s first free municipal public library. By 1966, the library moved to a new location at St. Georges and Central avenues (where it stayed until flooding for the eighth time in 1999), while the Guild building became the Claude H. Reed Cultural and Recreational Center, housing the city recreation department until the late 1990s when the Recreation Center was constructed. In the early 1990s, some investors apparently considered the building for the potential brewpub. The Arts Guild took over in 1998 after some renovations.
Cappiello said the Guild will look for a new home but didn’t sound hopeful. The organization doesn’t have the resources to renovate a site if necessary and a becoming a mobile venue would be difficult given the needs as simple as lighting.
According to its most recent tax form, the Arts Guild reported about $112,000 in revenue — mostly program revenue, such as class tuition ($48,300), contributions and grants ($38,395), and government grants ($20,000) — and $26,000 in net assets.