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.