Rider reveals details of major three-story Fine Arts addition

23,000-square-foot addition is largest project announced in relation to Westminster Choir College transition
Adam Grybowski

New practice and rehearsal spaces, faculty offices, teaching spaces, dressing rooms and more are part of a proposed addition to the Fine Arts building on Rider University’s Lawrenceville campus. The 23,000-square-foot addition would be the University's largest new construction project related to academic facilities since 1992, when an addition was put on the Science and Technology Center.

The Fine Arts addition is also the largest project that Rider has announced as part of the University’s plan to integrate its two campuses beginning in the fall when the programs of Westminster Choir College move from Princeton to Lawrenceville.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen, Ph.D., shared details about the project and the latest conceptual renderings in a message to the campus community on Feb. 5.

Most prominently, the project envisions a 2,400-square-foot multipurpose space on the top floor. Similar to the new space in Gill Chapel, it will create a flexible space able to accommodate rehearsals and performances for many programs, including choral ensembles, theatre, musical theatre and dance.

“The Fine Arts project represents a major investment in our commitment to ensuring a strong and sustainable future for Westminster Choir College on the Lawrenceville campus,” Fredeen says. “I’m confident this project is going to support our students in their efforts to reach the highest levels of musical and artistic achievement and contribute to their overall educational experience.”

The ground floor of the proposed addition includes new dressing rooms with private bathrooms and multi-purpose teaching spaces that will accommodate acting, opera and other performance needs. Forty offices, each large enough to accommodate an upright or grand piano and with sound attenuation, will be constructed on the second and third floors for music faculty who will be temporarily situated in Omega House for the 2020-21 academic year.

Sixteen new practice rooms will be located in the addition. When the project is complete, the total number of practice rooms available to students will reach 53. That number exceeds the current number of practice rooms on the Princeton campus and will accommodate all students taking music courses in the Westminster College of the Arts.

The new multipurpose room will create a third performance space in Fine Arts alone, adding to the existing 450-seat Yvonne Theater, where most of Rider’s theatre and musical theatre performances take place, and the Spitz Theater, a 100-seat studio theater. (A 340-seat proscenium theater also hosts performances and other events in the Bart Luedeke Center.)

As part of this project, the existing Fine Arts building, which was originally dedicated in 1966, will also receive welcome renovations that will benefit programs in Rider’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. With the move of Rider’s student-run radio station, 107.7 The Bronc, to the second floor this semester, a comprehensive media environment for Rider students is taking shape. The move will consolidate the student production and editing facilities for radio, television, filmmaking, journalism, graphic design and game design.

A new main entrance, featuring a new facade, a new lobby and the relocated Art Gallery, will welcome the campus and public community into the building. All existing classrooms will be upgraded with new lighting, ceilings, flooring, paint and furniture. On the ground floor, all bathrooms and common areas will be upgraded and refurbished. Existing spaces will be renovated to become multi-purpose music classrooms and to house the bell choir.

“The Facilities Working Group has done an outstanding job in creating these plans to benefit all Rider students while paying particular attention to the needs of those coming from the Princeton campus,” says Fredeen, referencing the subgroup of faculty and staff charged with discussing, planning and making recommendations for the Fine Arts project.

Other facilities projects currently underway related to the Westminster transition include renovations to Gill Chapel and Omega House, with work on Moore Library expected to begin in March. Those projects are expected to be completed in time to accommodate Westminster Choir College students who are moving to the Lawrenceville campus beginning in September 2020. Work on the Fine Arts addition is expected to begin this spring, with the project to be completed by fall 2021.