Saturday, February 23, 2008

Condo Conversions - Ledger - Stetson Factory In Orange

Published in the Star Ledger, Friday, January 25, 2008

Hearing set on sale of factory

Residential, work lofts planned in Orange

Star-Ledger Staff

Orange has scheduled a public hearing on the planned sale of one of the old boarded up factory buildings, where John B. Stetson and his family built a thriving hat manufacturing business in the 1800s and early 1900s.

The hearing and final vote on selling 540 Mitchell St., a three-story brick building that was part of the famed Stetson family's No Name Hat Factory complex, is scheduled for Feb. 19.

The city is planning to sell the building to a partnership proposing to create residential/work lofts.

The final vote on the sale had been originally scheduled for Jan. 15, but was postponed after the last minute discovery of a sales price typographical error.

"It was a mistake within my department and I take full responsibility for it," Marty Mayes, the city's director of planning and development said.

Some 40 supporters of the planned affordable housing community showed up at the meeting to support the proposal offered by Harvard Development Associates LLC, a co-developer along with Housing and Neighborhood Development Services Inc. (HANDS) nonprofit agency in Orange.

The sale's figure was supposed to be $300,000, not $330,000, and that correction must be the subject of a new public hearing, along with a second and final city council vote, Mayes said.

If the measure is approved, the co-developers plan to spend more than $1.4 million to gut the structure and transform it into affordable residences. The developers also plan to construct another building on an adjacent lot. In all the development would have 20-30 artists live-work lofts, according to Patrick Morrissy, the housing agency's executive director.

"We're very excited about it," Morrissy said of the No Name Hat Factory building's plans.

The boarded up hat factory, next to NJ Transit's rail line and its Highland Avenue rail station, has been an unoccupied eyesore for more than 20 years.

The factory complex originally was built by Stephen Stetson, along with his sons, including John B. Stetson. The Stetson family collectively created what became Orange's third largest hat manufacturing business, the No Name Hat Factory.

John B. Stetson trademarked the Stetson name and built his own hat manufacturing empire under his world-renowned name, in Philadelphia. Yet, neither he nor any of his other family members in Orange could ever come up with a name for the factory there, other than, No Name.

Morrissy said he remains cautiously optimistic about the rebirth of the No Name Hat Factory struc ture.

"What you'll have is this old turn-of-the-century factory building, which is three stories, plus a full basement, that will be completely rehabilitated," Morrissy said. "And then we're going to build a new building, south of it, facing Jefferson Street. It will be a two-year-long project."

Kevin C. Dilworth may be reached at kdilworth@starled or (973) 392-4143

Online story here. Archived here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.