A lengthy and sometimes controversial process to convert an old church into condominiums seems to finally be ending at Hoboken’s First Baptist Church, which looks to add six units of unique housing to one of the city’s most historic streets.
The property, at 901 Bloomfield Street, was designed by New York architectural firm French, Dixon & DeSaldern around the turn of the 20th century. At the request of a local Baptist congregation, they drew up plans for a Romanesque-style building featuring a three-story bell tower, the construction of which was completed in 1891 at the cost of $9,000.
As recently as 2013, the Seventh Day Adventist Church ran Spanish-speaking services out of the building, but it was eventually put up for sale and purchased by an investor who wanted to convert the property into condominiums. To execute their vision, they brought aboard architecture firm Marchetto Higgins Stieve, who have a wealth of experience adaptively reusing churches that includes their current offices at 1225 Willow Avenue.
Per the plans, the First Baptist Church conversion will see the removal of the building’s current roof in favor of a new Mansard-style one that’s shorter but wider, adding a fifth floor to the structure that will be topped with gray-colored zinc. New transparent Pella architect series windows that match the building’s historic frames will be used, but almost everything else at the church will be restored.
All of the existing brick on the exterior will be cleaned and repaired, as will the original doors at the property, which will be refinished. 100% of the existing wrought iron fencing at the property will be scraped, repaired, primed and painted, and copper gutters at the site will be refurbished or re-created.
Architect Dean Marchetto told the Zoning Board that the restoration of the building’s façade is projected to cost about $1 million, although private funds will be used exclusively at the property despite its presence on the National Register of Historical Places.
The six condominiums themselves will be accessible via a lobby that will feature an elevator and half a dozen of the church’s restored stained glass windows as wall art. The units will consist of two 2-bedrooms, two 3-bedrooms, and two 4-bedrooms. Four of them will be duplexes, with the biggest 4-bedroom unit topping out at 2,545 square feet. Two condos will utilize the basement of the structure, which is allowed since the property is not located in a floodplain. An 826-square foot roof terrace and skylights will complete the building’s renovation.
The project has not been without controversy despite Hoboken’s Historic Commission signing off on the changes to the church back in November 2014 and the Zoning Board unanimously approving the project in October 2015. Residents filed a zoning appeal to the City Council that was denied last year and a movement attempting to purchase the church for community use sprouted a petition, albeit without any funding source.
There was even an 11th-hour attempt to save the property by a City Councilman that led to some political squabbling. But the resolution was voted down, in part because of a letter the church’s owner sent to the city back in December, which stated they weren’t interested in another use of the property.
The long and winding road has ended with two construction permits posted at the site, which seems to indicate that renovations will start soon at the historic building.