Update on AEG & Friends of the Loew’s

Just a brief expansion on what happened yesterday.  The JCRA Board did as Mayor Fulop wants and authorized negotiating two contracts: one for the renovation of the Loew’s by one company; and another contract for the operation of the Theatre by a for-profit consortium led by AEG.  But, as the JCRA Board stressed, the contracts are not written yet.  And as FOL pointed out at the meeting, since our legal defense of our lease is still ongoing, to do so would be at best premature.

Ironically, the presentations made at the meeting in an attempt to bolster the argument for the contracts Fulop wants actually validated much of what FOL has been saying:

The team that wants the contract for renovating the Loew’s made it very clear that fire and building code repairs and new air conditioning are among the most important issues that must be taken care of before programming at the Loew’s can increase.  And that’s exactly what FOL  said, and the City agreed with 10 years ago, and those are the projects the City is obligated to FOL to find funding for – but has not.

The construction team also talked about a host of things they proposed to do that sound very familiar:

Compare old photos to present-day conditions to determine how to restore  – Done by Friends of the Loew’s.

Carry out paint analysis to determine original colors  – Done by Friends of the Loew’s.

Repaint walls in original colors  – The walls under the balcony are already done by the Friends of the Loew’s.

Clean oxidation off of the gilded leaf surface  –  This project is underway currently by Friends of the Loew’s.

Try to figure out how to improve & ease stage load in  –  Friends of the Loew’s has already drafted the plans, and has taken the first step to get the project underway.

Try to figure out how to install additional restrooms  – The Friends of the Loew’s has already planned this project.

Plan for stage technical upgrades  –  That’s done, and FOL is well underway at carrying the project out.

The fact is, FOL and the Princeton-based architectural firm we work with have been grappling with problems, and planning and carrying our repairs and upgrades to the Loew’s for years.  But for two decades, the City’s message to FOL has been that it wants to spend as little as possible on the Loew’s — and the City hasn’t even provided the relatively small amount of money it’s promised to make those most basic repairs.  So FOL has been forced to go about planning and carrying out renovations incrementally, with a lot of volunteer labor.

Even the guy from the construction team at the JCRA meeting admitted that his company will only be able to do all the great things he was talking about (a lot of which FOL has already started) if a great deal of money is made available from the City.

And speaking of money, one of the only things in the last ten years that the City actually did find some money for in support of the Loew’s was a comprehensive Historic Structures Report compiled by FOL’s architect, working with specialized consultants and our own professional volunteers.  It details pretty much everything – and more – that was talked about at the JCRA meeting.  There’s no need for the City to spend more money to re-do what’s already been done.

As to the contract with AEG – their representative made it clear they can bring pop concerts into the Loew’s once the Theatre has been renovated more.   We’ve always said that commercial companies like AEG are the sources that most arts centers work with to bring in major commercial concerts.  There’s also Bowery Presents and Live Nation.  But arts center do much more in addition to their kind of programming – and some of the income from the commercial programming should help support the broader operation.  That’s why the Mayor’s approach is backwards.  And the only reason why FOL hasn’t, so far, been able to work with these promoters to bring more concerts into the Loew’s is the need  for more renovations to the Theatre – the same thing AEG would need if they were ever to try to run the Loew’s.  And for the record, AEG indicated that should FOL prevail in our case, they will work with us when the Theatre is renovated.

From the Archives: A Vision of Loew’s Future, 1991

Friends of the Loew’s, 1991

A Vision of Loew's - 1991

A Vision of Loew’s – 1991

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A Vision of Loew's - 1991

A Vision of Loew’s – 1991

A Vision of Loew’s Future

The movement to save and restore the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre has been inspired by more than sentiment for history, because the Loew’s is far more than just an irreplaceable monument of the past. The Landmark Loew’s is a valuable resource for the future of:

  • The Arts:  Jersey City, and indeed all of Hudson County, has been woefully lacking in facilities to support the arts and entertainment.  Local groups have had to perform in school gyms and church basements.  A restored Loew’s Jersey will provide the quality of facility which can support local artisitic growth and attract major professional productions to Hudson.  Beyond its local impact, the Loew’s will be one of the Metropolitan Area’s premier performance venues
  • Area Economy:  Experience in many other cities has shown a restored Loew’s will be the catalyst to revive Journal Square.  To quote the Detroit News regarding their restored  Fox Theatre:  “It’s a result you can ring up in the cash register.  You merely have to witness the area’s vitality (on theatre nights)…already we have people filling the streets and restaurants.”  That means improved property values, more jobs and increased tax revenue.
  • Quality of Life:  The arts and entertainment are not a luxury.  They are critical to the quality of urban life.  Cities must give their people the opportunity to find relief, at least for a little while, from their daily cares.  The restored Loew’s will be a valuable amenity to make Jersey City a more vital and livable community.
  • Education:  The very word “education” is based on older language meaning “to lead out”.  The arts and entertainment expand the mind, raise the hopes and lift the spirit as effectively as any school course.  The arts are also a powerful medium through which we share values and cultural traditions from one generation to another and from one ethnic group to another.  That is especially important in our ethnically diverse area.

Few projects offer such a broad spectrum of benefits as the restoration of the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre.

Who Are The Friends of the Loew’s?

  • All of us are…Just the fact that you are here now says that you too are a friend of the Loew’s, at least informally.
  • But then again…Let’s clarify some possible confusion.  We are not the folks who put on the shows.  Each stage show us the work if a separate Production Company.  They provide the cast and crew listed in their show program.  They handle their own finances and have their own volunteer support staffs.  Our job is different.  Friends of the Loew’s is the group that guided the drive which saved the Loew’s.  Now we’re helping to oversee its restoration.  Until there is paid staff, we are maintaining and operating the Theatre building itself.*
  • Volunteering…We are unpaid volunteers.  Some can only give us a few hours per month of running the refreshment stand or handing out flyers or making fundraising phone calls.  Others offer professional skills such as electrician, journalist or bookkeeper.

Working Together

JCEDC:  The Jersey City Economic Development Corporation is a non-profit corporation that works closely with local government in programs to improve Jersey City’s economy.  Recognizing that the Loew’s is an important economic as well as artistic and historic resource, JCEDC joined Friends of the Loew’s in calling for the Theatre’s preservation.

Together with thousands of concerned citizens, JCEDC and Friends of the Loew’s convinced the City to save the Loew’s by buying it this past April from the developer that had planned to destroy it.  Now we are all working on plans to restore the Theatre as New Jersey’s premier center for the arts and entertainment and as a catalyst for local economic growth.

Steering Committee:  To help us in this important mission, we are forming a Steering Committee of business and community leaders which will oversee formal planning, set programming standards, create our theatre operating entity, and most important of all will guide, support, and promote the critical job of raising private funds, public contributions and grant monies that will be needed in coming years.

We are fortunate that a Jersey City native, motivated by her love for the Loew’s, concern for her hometown and her life-long commitment to the performing arts, the renowed Phyllis Newman, is chairing our Steering Committee.**

NJ Historic Trust has given a matching grant of One Million Dollars towards the restoration of the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre.  This is not only one of the largest single grants of its type ever given by that organization.  It is also a clear vote of confidence in our project and community.

The preservation and restoration of the Loew’s is a unique example of government, civic activists, the arts community and the private sector working together to make life better in Jersey City.

The History of a Miracle

“I used to come here as a child.”   For many people, that says it all.  From September 28, 1929 and for most of the next 57 years, this building was Jersey City’s showplace of instant magic:  A special venue of affordable beauty, fun, culture, elegance and aspiration.

In it’s first decades, the stage of the Loew’s was host to live shows by the most famous stars of the time, including Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and the Ritz Brothers.  Other now famous performers, like Frank Sinatra, Phyllis Newman, Flip Wilson and Nathan Lane, walked through these doors as teenaged customers when they lived in this community.  For all of it’s life, the Theatre was also a “first run” movie house for Hollywood’s major films.

Movie Palaces like the Loew’s were built in the 1920’s and ’30’s for both live show and film.  Also called Dream Palaces, they were unlike any other type of Theatre building built before or since.  A truly American phenomenon, Movie Palaces’ grandiose designs echoed the luxurious architecture of the world’s royal palaces and cathedrals, but were accessible to the common man.

The Landmark Loew’s Jersey was designed to inspire awe and pleasure from the moment the patron stepped into the exotic and elaborate lobby that you are sitting in now.  In the main auditorium, the soaring, baroque interior is itself as much a theatrical experience as any performance given on the stage or screen.  Each of the 3,300 seats is deluxe, with perfect sight lines and acoustics.

The Loew’s Imperiled:  Seven years ago, that all seemed doomed, a treasure lost for all the generations that will follow.  The grand building was scheduled to be torn down by a developer and was only hours from the wrecking ball.  Now, thanks to the efforts of an aroused community determined not to lose its showplace, that which was almost lost is given back.  The Loew’s is to be restored as an arts and entertainment center.  We are blessed with a second chance to share the dream.

 *2014 Update: FOL has only two employees. One was hired just a little over a year ago. Each make $45,000 salaried – but a comment by the Mayor’s Office unfortunately caused confusion by making it sound as if each make $90,000, the amount of the total payroll. Neither receive health or other benefits. As mangers, each employee works significant overtime, mostly on weekends without extra pay. Pattie Giordan volunteered for the Loew’s for 20 years before becoming FOL’s first employee in 2007. She has not received a raise since. Colin Egan became the second employee in 2013. He had helped to lead the effort to save the Loew’s beginning in 1987 and is a founder of Friends of the Loew’s. In1994, JCEDC put him in charge of the grant-funded stabilization work. After FOL leased the Loew’s, Colin left JCEDC but continued to work on behalf of the Loew’s as a volunteer.

**2014 Update:  The City of Jersey City never moved forward with formulating and implementing the Steering Committee with the JCEDC.