NY Daily News: It’s a wonderful loft: Downtown Newark making space for lots of conversions

NY Daily News: It’s a wonderful loft: Downtown Newark making space for lots of conversions

After Hal Laessig and his wife lost their downtown Newark art gallery and living space in an eminent-domain fight with the Newark Housing Authority over the Prudential Center, they were determined to save an old building.

Three years and $3 million later, an 1879 former button factory in the Ironbound District houses their gallery, the Sumei Multidisciplinary Art Center, and serves as their home. They developed Button Factory Lofts into 14 condo units, nine of which have sold since the building opened in October.

The couple are among a wave of preservation-minded developers turning industrial buildings into loft spaces to accommodate Newark’s growing population of artists and professionals.

“When things were booming, developers were clearing multiple blocks, so a lot of the old industrial buildings got demolished,” says Laessig, 54. “Now, with the few that are left, people are thinking, let’s save them and convert them for living, because otherwise they’ll all be gone.”

Good overview of some recent condo conversions happening in the city and the personalities behind them.

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

3 thoughts on “NY Daily News: It’s a wonderful loft: Downtown Newark making space for lots of conversions”

  1. Hi Ken.I moved to the east coast about a year and a half ago. Recently found out about Newark and would like to know more about its history. I want to know all there is and would like to find out a way to somehow help. I’ve done a little bit of research and talked to a few people. I know that there’s a huge sense of hopelessness, there are a lot of non-profits trying to better the city, the mayor has made some improvements, and neighboring people tend to acknowledge the city’s predicament but pretty much look the other way. I stumbled on your blog, and you seem to genuinely care. Could you give me suggestions/guidance on where to start in learning more about Newark. I prefer to have a strong knowledgeable base before I jump into trying to look for possible solutions. If you could point me to a good direction, with other people who are doing significant work, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


  2. Hi Nhi, welcome! Thanks for your willingness to do some heavy lifting in our great city.
    Well, first, I’d like to suggest that Newark is a place of great opportunity. Yes, the city has many challenges: a history of corruption, high unemployment, an obstinate poverty rate. But this city is also a place of great hope, whose people are admirably tenacious in the face of adversity.
    If you’re interested in helping to bring about real change, I’d recommend a couple of avenues, depending on your skills, interest and availability:
    If you’re interested in building projects, I know that Trinity Church and Habitat for Humanity are frequently doing work here in the city.
    If you’ve got a few hours a month, you can mentor a child.
    Or, of course, if you have skills and experience in non-profit work, you can contact Newark Now to partner you with an organization where you can be useful.
    I hope that helps. Let me know if you need more info.


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