NEWARK — Standing proudly on Broad Street since 1925, Newark Symphony Hall has played host to Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and Placido Domingo, among others.

But nearly a century of wear and tear has left the "building envelope," as president and CEO Taneshia Nash Laird calls it, badly in need of renovation, particularly to remediate water infiltration.

That kind of sprucing up is the top priority for a $750,000 grant that the concert hall has been awarded from the Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund. That's a function of the New Jersey Historic Trust, which is itself under the umbrella of the state Department of Community Affairs.

"That is the actual maximum amount of grant funds, and we're going to be applying it to the first phase of a renovation that we intend to begin this coming spring," Nash Laird said.

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The renovation, which will be three phases in total, is eventually slated to cost $40 million. Nash Laird said the project will rejuvenate the surrounding community, with the expected creation of around 500 jobs, and projected impacts on about 50 small businesses.

That's extremely important, Nash Laird said, with studies by the Institute for Social Justice and others illustrating the wealth gap among the predominantly Black and brown population of New Jersey's largest city.

"I'm just pleased that a state agency has decided to support us as we continue our revitalization in Newark," she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced operations at the hall to go virtual, but Nash Laird said a few things remain in production.

"It has required us to think about the delivery of our programming differently, and I think in some ways it's created additional opportunities," she said.

One of those new opportunities is a piece called "The Soul of Newark Symphony Hall," which explores the relationship the venue has had with Newark's Black community over the years, up through the summer of 2020 with the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement top of mind.

Other endeavors include artist-in-residency and youth poet laureate programs, and something known as "The Lab," which supports local performing artists and provides resources for those just starting out in their careers.

Nash Laird said the state grant provides the first step for those younger artists to one day hopefully attain the acclaim of the historic acts that have appeared in the Hall.

"The idea is that we create and polish this jewel, so that we can continue to present the sort of people that have been presented there over the past 95 years," she said.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

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