One of Newark, N.J.'s oldest and largest Black-led arts and entertainment venues unveiled on May 5 designs for its exterior renovation, part of a three-phase, $50-million restoration project.

Now in early design, the Newark Symphony Hall's exterior revamp is scheduled to begin by late summer or fall and expected to be complete on the venue’s 100th birthday in 2025.  

With the assistance of project architect and historic preservation expert Clarke Caton Hintz, "we’ll be revitalizing our corner of Broad Street while modernizing and paying tribute to our historic venue, an anchor institution for the city," said Taneshia Nash Laird, president and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall,

The 220,000-sq-ft limestone-clad classical revival hall, which includes a 2,800-seat concert hall, 1,200-person-capacity ballroom and 250-seat black box theater, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, according to a press release. The venue has hosted artists such as Placido Domingo, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix.

Besides restoring the building façade, plans include adding bike lanes, improving curbs, adding a central island and improving transportation access. An NSH Plaza in front of the theater would also function as a crosswalk for pedestrians. 

Work at the main entry canopy and dome will beautify the building while respecting the existing design, says Stephen Doyle, senior associate at Trenton, N.J.-based Clarke Caton Hintz.

The translucent canopy, which will shine directional light onto the building’s columns, is one way the team is adding “a bit of invention with the façade,” Doyle says. The canopy will replace a 1970s-era design with new materials, a more sophisticated shape and LED lighting technology so that it is “a real beacon for the city,” he says. 

“The dome is a really complex series of arches that form a dome in elevation, but because of the geometry of the building and the way it sits on the structure, each arch is a little different, so it’s a very structural two-dimensional element," Doyle says. "Very simple but delicate."

The team also plans to improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of systems within the historic building as much as possible, Doyle says.

Minority-owned and Newark, N.J.-based Reh + Main Design and Development was the consultant that managed the selection process of the historic preservation architect for this phase of work, Nash Laird said. Additionally, Reh + Main has designed a business training program to prepare local and minority-owned companies for opportunities related to the five-year project, she said.

Nash Laird also noted that the engineer selected for the project is Black-owned Legacy Engineers, based in New York City and co-founded by John Rice and Cheryl McKissack Daniel.

The Newark Symphony, owned by the city of Newark and operated by the nonprofit Newark Performing Arts Corp., is currently raising funds for the building envelope and canopy work and expects to finance them through philanthropy, historic tax credits and other state and federal programs, the press release said.

It has involved both the Newark Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, along with the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, which holds project oversight on a $750,000 grant awarded to the venue in November 2020.