Council approves Hamilton Street arts projects

With at least one proponent invoking the mythical tale of Prometheus, more than a dozen speakers, including labor union representatives, artists and school officials, last night spoke in favor of borrowing $8.5 million for construction of the Hamilton Street arts projects. Two residents questioned the cost and benefit to city taxpayers.

The City Council last night unanimously approved an $8.5-million bond ordinance to build a 1,100-seat amphitheater (above) at the former Hamilton Laundry site and to renovate the Bell Building (below) to house a black box theater. One speaker after the next noted that the amphitheater project is part of the city’s continuing investment in the Arts District and the overall vision for the arts to drive redevelopment, remaking the city as a destination. (Here’s The Star-Ledger‘s take on last night’s meeting.)

The council last night also unanimously approved ordinances to shift management of the Special Improvement District funds to the Rahway Arts District and to negotiate the purchase of 52 E. Cherry St. from the Rahway Center Partnership.

Construction of the amphitheater is still on schedule to begin this fall, City Engineer James Housten told the Redevelopment Agency last week. Remediation of the soil can begin now that a case manager has been assigned by the state for the city’s Brownfields sites. Most all of the soil has been contaminated with fluids used in dry cleaning, he said, adding that it can either be trucked away or mixed with chemicals on site to remediate.