Cultural Arts Incentive Program signed last year expected to give a boost to Metuchen’s Arts District
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METUCHEN – Borough officials see the historic Forum Theatre as key to developing an arts district on Main Street.
Photo credit: Middlesex County NJ Government Facebook page October 2018
This plan began taking shape way back in 2019 when the borough – armed with a $3.5 million Middlesex County grant – used part of that award to buy the old theater, which many long-time residents fondly remember.
Since then, there have been some problems with an old gas station next to the theatre, but the borough council said last year it wants to buy it. 
No problems were evident on Tuesday, however, when Gov. Phil Murphy came to the borough to highlight the renovation project. The governor was accompanied by Craig Coughlin, the Assembly speaker, and a county resident.
As is the norm for such occasions, the governor, who toured the theatre, was upbeat, talking about the Forum’s “immense potential.”
He added,  “New Jersey’s cultural hubs – from our theaters to our music venues — bring people together in support of artistic expression and creativity. We look forward to working through the Economic Development Authority to revitalize community treasures across New Jersey, and to watching the Metuchen Arts District continue to take shape over the coming months.”
The official reason for Murphy’s trip to Metuchen had to do with legislation signed last year establishing the Cultural Arts Incentive Program.  The program will provide tax credits to support an array of arts projects, including the rehabilitation of theaters, museums, galleries, libraries, performing arts centers, and the like. The credits will cover capital and operating costs of new and renovated art venues throughout the state.
“Uplifting these areas is an important investment in the richness of New Jersey’s communities and local economies,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
Coughlin was a sponsor of the legislation in question.
He said:
“Metuchen’s Forum Theatre is a prime example of a renewed local institution that will benefit an entire region. My thanks to Governor Murphy for his partnership and to (Economic Development Authority) CEO Tim Sullivan for his work in implementation so we can see more success stories across the state.”
Jonathan Busch, the borough’s mayor, has long talked about the Forum’s potential to bring visitors to downtown Metuchen.
After joining Murphy for the tour, Busch said, “We all recognize that revitalizing the Forum Theatre would provide an overwhelming boost to the borough’s flourishing arts scene. Investment opportunities like these are catalysts for broader economic development in communities throughout New Jersey because they help attract visitors and businesses to places like Metuchen.”
By William Swanson, Special to The Central Observer
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