In an era where new construction is seemingly everywhere, some developers are finding inspiration in the relics of Hoboken’s industrial age, taking facilities that once made things like bread and window blinds and adapting them for the 21st century.
Smack dab in the middle of the city, a factory that once housed an iconic brand is about to be revitalized. A red, U-shaped building at 720 Clinton Street, commonly referred to as ‘the Wonder Bread building’ by locals, was once home to John Schmalz’s Sons Model Bakery. Established in 1867 by German immigrants, they became locally famous for their Jersey Cream Malt Bread.
A fire destroyed the original Schmalz’s building in 1909, which led to the construction of the current facility. Years later, the factory became part of the Continental Baking Corporation, which baked Wonder Bread at the site for many years.
Portions of the building also once lodged a knitting mill and, most recently, a dog day care center. But in December, Clifton-based Parkwood Development gained approvals to transform the property into WonderLofts, a 68-unit condominium project that adaptively reuses almost all of the structure.
Frank Minervini, the project’s lead architect, says that approximately 95% of the building can be reused and is in relatively good condition, as the factory was built with the most advanced fireproofing technology available at the time of its construction.
The renovation will preserve the building’s entire façade, chimneys, a smokestack and the factory’s water tower. The new sections of the structure will consist of composite metal panels with large glass windows. The project will be LEED Gold Certified and sport a historical plaque, in addition to including 119 parking spaces and 2,375-square feet of ground floor commercial space.
To appease the city’s desire for bigger spaces, 57 of the building’s 68 units will be three-bedroom condominiums, with the remainder having two-bedrooms. Amenities in the building will include terraced outdoor space on the roofs of the structure and a 4,000-square foot center promenade with a pool. The plan will also take a parking lot across the street from WonderLofts and turn it into a new four-story building that will sport six affordable housing units.
Further west and just blocks away from WonderLofts, a former Levelor Blinds factory has been gradually re-envisioned as the Monroe Center. The surviving compound of two side-by-side mill buildings at 720 Monroe Street were repurposed in the 1990s before being purchased out of bankruptcy by Basad Realty, who has managed and continued to renovate the facility since 2011.
Last year, the complex completed a full renovation to the ground floor of one of its buildings, also adding a glass breezeway complete with LED lighting between the two structures. Since the re-opening, the property has added Panello, a BYOB Italian pizza and tapas restaurant featuring a wood-burning oven, and Low Fatt Chow, a health-conscious Chinese take-out eatery.
The second building of the Monroe Center is now getting a ground floor renovation of its own. Property manager Hershy Weiss says the building’s new lobby should be open in two weeks and the new retail space will house an international school and a coffee shop/gallery space. In addition, 3,000 square feet have been set aside for a “high-end” restaurant and there are two 1,000-square foot spaces still available.
Additionally, the Monroe Center’s top four floors consist of 180,000-square feet of artist studios, offices and retail spaces that are filled to capacity. Many businesses call the building home, including The Crop Shop, the Hob’art gallery, multiple gyms and numerous children’s summer camp programs.
Later this year, the facility will also open The Octagon, a second-floor octagon-shaped party room that will function as an event space. The company will also add landscaping and a water feature to the grounds underneath the breezeway and hopes to complete the Monroe Center’s revitalization in the next few months.