Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


Condominiums and Artists Spaces in an Old Hat Factory

SGA2016_win_button_F1_smProject Name: F. Berg Hat Factory Complex, Orange
Transformation of an abandoned factory into commercial and artist space and condominiums, anchoring the Valley Arts District.

Partners: HANDS Inc.; Community Asset Preservation Corporation; Community Housing Capital; New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency

The Valley train station in the city of Orange is the first truly “urban” stop on the NJ Transit line into Newark and New York. Until recently, commuters were greeted at that station with a view of three vacant, derelict former factory buildings — the F. Berg Hat Factory Complex. The buildings sit at one corner of the Central Valley Redevelopment Area, which straddles the line between Orange and West Orange, and are within the 15-block core of the Valley Arts District, an area where buildings have been renovated and reused as artists’ live/work residential units and studios, restaurants, galleries, cafes, artisan workshops, recording studios and a repertory theater. The hat factory buildings will add to and anchor this district with additional artists’ spaces and emerging-market for-sale condominiums.

While it might seem unusual to develop homeownership units in an area better known for disinvestment and blight, the redevelopment area borders two strong residential areas in West Orange and South Orange, allowing the hat factory project to “graft onto healthy tissue.” In addition, the city of Orange has been declared an Urban Enterprise Zone, and now boasts an eclectic mix of small businesses that will benefit from the influx of new residents, and the Valley Arts District has proven to be an attractor of new economic activity. HANDS, a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 to ensure that the neighborhoods in and around Orange remain good places to raise a family, has been the primary driver of revitalization of this part of the city, and saw the hat factory complex as an opportunity to capitalize on the growing demand for affordable, compact, walkable living with easy access to transit. The property was purchased in 2010, and the next five years were spent remediating the site from its manufacturing-related contamination.

F Berg renderingThe first building, the Powerhouse, has been redeveloped by HANDS into affordable artists’ spaces. The two remaining buildings in the complex will, when completed, offer 32 condominium residences and 10 more artists’ spaces. A long-term tax abatement negotiated with the city will allow the condominiums to be offered at emerging-market prices, which will allow for for payments similar to prevailing rents — something seen as a key to re-establishing a homeownership market in the Valley.

In addition to revitalizing the buildings, the project calls for an open courtyard, linking the complex with the wider neighborhood and providing a venue for outdoor arts and entertainment events.

Besides the tax abatement, the financing that enabled this project came from Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credits and the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency of New Jersey’s CHOICE program. The CHOICE funds were critical to filling the financing gap on the project, and also attracted a second, private-sector lender.

The result will be a new anchor to an existing, vibrant arts district, that offers additional artist spaces as well as affordable for-sale residences with easy access to transit. Even with the tax abatement, the city will also see an increase in its tax base as these buildings are reactivated, and new residents are able to live, work and shop locally.

Supporting partners: New Jersey Community Capital; lwdmrArchitects; Frank H. Lehr Associates; New Jersey Department of Community Affairs

Videos produced by Lori H. Ersolmaz, Voices of Hope Productions, LLC. © 2016 All rights reserved.

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