Officials of a proposed performing arts center at the World Trade Center have announced a lead gift of $75 million from billionaire businessman Ronald O. Perelman to endow and fund the construction and operations of the center, which will bear Perelman's name.
Scheduled to open in 2020, the new complex will include three flexible theaters that can be combined into a single space able to accommodate up to twelve hundred people. According to the New York Times, the plan is for the center to present and/or produce dance, concerts, new and early chamber opera, and theater, and discussions are under way for it to become the main venue of the annual Tribeca Film Festival.
A performing arts center had long been envisioned as a key part of the rebuilt World Trade Center site, but the idea was put on the back burner as officials wrangled over other issues involved in redevelopment of the site. Groups including New York City Opera, the Signature Theater Company, and the Joyce Theater were approached about anchoring the complex, which Frank Gehry was hired to design, but nothing came of it. Expected to cost $240 million, the center is being designed by REX, a Brooklyn-based architecture firm, and is being supported by $100 million in federal funds courtesy of the Lower Manhattan Development.
In 2015, following a number of disagreements with executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson and other board members, Perelman stepped down as board chair of Carnegie Hall after less than a year in the job — and before he was due to make a gift expected to be around $30 million. Perelman told the Times his support of the new performing arts center was unrelated to his departure from Carnegie Hall and that he probably would have made the gift anyway. According to the Times, the seeds of Perelman's involvement in the redevelopment of the WTC site were planted a decade ago when then-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg became chair of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. At the time, Perelman donated $5 million toward the museum project and stayed involved, and as the PAC project finally began to take shape, he agreed to make the lead gift.
"I think that this is a project that must happen," said Perelman, adding that he had been drawn to it by the vision of the role that art could play at the site of the September 11 attacks and in the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Manhattan. "It is more than just a pure artistic center to serve a community. It is that, but at the same time it's much more than that."