Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


Whitlock Mills

Project Name: Whitlock Mills

Reactivation and repurposing of an historic group of dormant industrial buildings to bring new mixed-income housing to a rapidly changing area of redevelopment; with on-site amenities for residents and the community, including an innovative educational child-care facility.

Primary Partner Team: RPM Development Group; City of Jersey City;
New Jersey Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency;
Inglese Architecture + Engineering

Whitlock Mills
Creating Community and Opportunity 

“It’s more than just bricks and sticks. We want to build community, we want to build skills, and enhance the lives of our residents… and because of this we have a more inclusive, well-rounded community.”—RPM Development Group Vice President of Development Joseph Portelli

Whitlock Mills is a mixed-income rental community located along the former Morris Canal in the vibrant Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood of Jersey City. Occupying 6.5 acres of industrial land, Whitlock Mills is a combination of adaptive reuse of five historic industrial buildings along with the construction of 29 new apartment buildings, all consistent with the design theme and red brick of the original industrial complex.

The Whitlock Cordage Company formerly owned the long-abandoned site, which is the oldest surviving industrial complex in Bergen-Lafayette and is considered the area’s most important landmark. The older buildings were originally built around 1860 as part of the former Passaic Zinc Works, with later buildings built when Whitlock Cordage moved to Jersey City in 1905. Manufacturer of what many consider to be the world’s strongest rope, Whitlock Cordage operated at the site until 1960, when the firm closed and sold the property. 

In 2000, the buildings were ordered to be torn down and the land auctioned off to pay taxes and fines. Local preservationists, community group members, and the City of Jersey City saved the property through a municipal historic landmark designation and a plan to turn the complex into mixed-income housing. 

RPM Development began construction on Whitlock Mills in 2018. The $104.2 million development features 330 one- to three-bedroom apartments, 230 of which are affordable to lower- and moderate-income residents. The redevelopment has the dual benefit of creating affordable housing in a city that needs it and preserving the property’s history and character within the neighborhood. Manning Avenue, one of the last remaining cobblestone streets in Jersey City, was restored as part of the project. 

Located within the rapidly changing Morris Canal Redevelopment Area, Whitlock Mills stands out for its prominent industrial buildings, open setting, and iconic main building with its rooftop sign. The complex maintains the park-like elements that Whitlock Cordage had originally introduced into its own landscape with new pedestrian connections to the planned Morris Canal Greenway and Lafayette Park. The complex is also near Liberty State Park and is within walking distance to two CITI Bike stations, several public transit options, and one of the city’s main commercial corridors. 

RPM formed a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hudson County to operate an on-site childcare facility delivering STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) activities in a one-of-a-kind space in the complex for residents and the greater community. The complex offers a number of additional amenities, including a public community space, two state-of-the-art fitness centers, controlled access off-street parking, a courtyard with grills and a playground, a complimentary coffee bar, and many others. With its inclusive approach to building community and creating opportunity, Whitlock Mills is enriching the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood as well as the lives of its residents. 

See all 2020 Smart Growth Awards

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