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Plan For New West End Theater Could Be Presented Soon

LONG BRANCH: The plan to build a new theater in West End will likely be heard by the either the Long Branch Planning Board or Zoning Board before the end of the year.

New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) agreed to buy the West End School from the Long Branch Board of Education (BOE) for $2.15 million earlier this year. NJ Rep, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, plans on turning the building, located at 132 West End Avenue, into a facility that houses five theaters, artisan housing, public greenspace and a large parking area.

Originally the closing date for the purchase of the school was set for Nov. 1, but he BOE has agreed to extend the closing date to March 1, 2016 as long as NJ Rep files its application for development with either the city planning or zoning board on or before Jan. 1, 2015.

NJ Rep presented its plans to the Long Branch Planning Board of Tuesday, Oct. 20 during an informal session and will likely be back to formally present the plans before the close of 2015.

"We've been working since March to get the plans to the planning board," NJ Rep founder Gabe Barabas said. "We've been doing a lot of architectural and site plan work."

Long Branch School District Superintendent Michael Salvatore said he expects the plans to be presented in December.

NJ Rep can terminate the agreement if it has failed to obtain approval of its application for development by March 1 or if the litigation or any potential appeals "are of such a concern that future development and construction of the property would be compromised."

If NJ Rep does not notify the BOE before March 1 of a decision to terminate the agreement, the closing will take place on March 10.

Barabas said he is fully committed to the project.

"We've been committed to staying in Long Branch," he said. "There has been tremendous support from the community."

A lawsuit was one of the main reasons NJ Rep requested a closing date extension.

On June 17, local attorney Scott Kelly filed a complaint in Monmouth County Superior Court against the city for its passage of the West End Overlay District zoning ordinance. The new zoning would allow NJ Rep to build a theater without having to obtain a use variance through the Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment.

"Both the Board of Education and Repertory Company are uncertain as to what effect, if any, the suit will have on the school as result of which Repertory Company has requested additional time to seek approval of an application for development," a resolution passed by the BOE in July stated.

The lawsuit has not yet been heard by any court.

To read more about NJ Rep's plans for the West End School, click here.


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