June 27, 2008

The Record, Hackensack, N.J., Commercial Real Estate Column

By James Quirk, The Record, Hackensack, N.J.

Jun. 26--Only a few years ago, a developer would have torn down the 100-year-old building at 175 Broadway in Paterson to make way for loft condominiums.

But in a time when a ton of steel costs more than $1,000 and the price of transporting materials has skyrocketed because of high diesel-fuel costs, developers and architects are taking a second look at the adaptive reuse of century-old buildings.

Instead of tearing down the old silk mill, Mercury Development, a nascent development company based in Paterson, decided to bring in Poskanzer Skott Architects of Ridgewood to renovate the building. Renovation is about 50 percent of the firm's business.

The result is Silk City Lofts, a five-story, 48-unit condominium site that began accepting pre-leases from tenants this week.

Construction is expected to be completed by summer's end, said Barry Poskanzer, a principal of Poskanzer Skott.

"This was an incredibly wonderful old building right across from the police department, near the college ," Poskanzer said, referring to William Paterson University. "This is going to be a major stone in the pond. It will have really major ripples for the development of the rest of the neighborhood."

Converting unused factory buildings into residential units is nothing new for Poskanzer's firm. In the past 10 years, it has designed the conversion of the Beattie Carpet Mill in Little Falls into The Mill, and the transformation of the Cooke Mill in Paterson to a four-story, 54,000-square-foot outpatient facility for St. Joseph's Hospital.

New construction has become so expensive because of soaring materials costs that it's actually cheaper to take a building such as 175 Broadway and bring it into modernity, Poskanzer said.

Old factory buildings actually have several positive elements, such as thick brick walls and heavy timber frames and floors that would cost a fortune for a developer to put up now, he said.

"Old buildings have some real advantages," Poskanzer said. "When you come into town and say you can preserve an old building, immediately everyone is on your side."

To convert the former silk mill, Poskanzer kept all of the brickwork, both exterior and interior, and put in only minor changes to the building's shell.

A thin layer of concrete was poured over the heavy timber floors, making them stronger and virtually soundproof, Poskanzer said.

The building's upper floor features 16-foot high ceilings.

The units within Silk City Lofts are priced starting at $140,000, and a model unit at the site is open to the public.

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