The last-minute cancellation of a real estate auction might end up being the deciding factor that saved a historic theater from the wrecking ball.
Last week, officials from Bergen County and the borough of Rutherford held a ceremony to commemorate the official transfer of the William Carlos Williams Center for the Arts from the county to the borough. The signing followed an abrupt about-face from plans earlier this month to have the property sold at auction, with Rutherford agreeing to accept ownership of the parcel on August 9.
“I am thrilled to be able to transfer control of the Williams Center to the Borough of Rutherford,” Bergen County Executive James J. Tedesco remarked. “As a former Mayor, I understand the importance of local control and local issues of importance and have always sought to work with the Borough and its officials on the future of this facility. I commend the current governing body for their efforts to ensure this property remains a cultural center for Rutherford.”
The complex, first opened in 1922 as the Rivoli Theater, has been owned by Bergen County since September 1987. The 642-seat Newman Theatre portion has been shuttered since October 2012 following storm damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, but a three-screen movie theatre reopened in 2016 and remains operational.
The complex saw its fair share of struggles even before Hurricane Sandy hit, as a devastating 1977 fire destroyed almost a third of the theater. While local philanthropists restored the building, the theatre later filed for bankruptcy in 1995 before re-emerging as a cultural institution.
The future of the theater remains unclear, but NorthJersey.com is reporting that local developer Chuck Olivo will be named as redeveloper of the site. Olivo has undertaken several redevelopment efforts as a principal of Stonefield Engineering, who contributed to the recently approved Journal Square Estates.
Olivo has discussed plans for a residential component and possibly a restaurant, while the theater’s website has posted some renderings of what they envision for the revitalization. Officials have not yet announced a timeline as to when more concrete plans for the site could be announced.