Skip to main content

A look at a rescued and revived Ward Bakery (in New Jersey)

Given the recent demise of the Ward Bakery in Prospect Heights, demolished by developer Forest City Ratner and with a few fragments turned into art, let's look at the renovation of another Ward Bakery (right), which straddles the border of Newark and East Orange, NJ.

Located in a depressed neighborhood, the building, now known as Bakery Village, was renovated into affordable housing that opened in 1999 .

When I wrote about the project, in March 2007, I cited an Urban Land Institute report that said, “The building, however, required massive, expensive structural improvements and environmental cleanup.”

(Bakery Village photos via Google Maps. Thanks to photographer Jonathan Barkey for the tip.)

Less costly in NJ

Well, "massive" and "expensive" is in the eye of the beholder. A look back at the news coverage suggests that, while it may have seemed costly in the 1990s, it was far less expensive than the sums suggested by the Empire State Development Corporation to renovate the building in Prospect Heights.

A 4/9/96 article in the Newark Star-Ledger, described plans by RPM Development to "pump[...] $11.5 million and new life into East Orange's Ampere section and the old Ward Bakery plant on Fourth Avenue, where thousands of people once worked baking Wonder and Silvercup breads."

(Above photo of Ward Bakery by Adrian Kinloch/Brit in Brooklyn. Below photo by the AY Camera Club, via NoLandGrab holiday card.)

The article stated that the plant, which straddles the Newark border, closed in 1985 and contained hazardous wastes, cleaned up by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The plan was to call the site Bakery Village.

A 7/27/97 Star-Ledger article followed up, describing the neighborhood as "a prime example of urban decay, which began shortly after both companies went out of business." It described the project as having 124 units: 34 one-bedroom apartments, 51 two-bedroom apartments, and 39 three-bedroom apartments.

The building was to have parking for 175 vehicles, an on-site day-care center for 100 children, and 17,000 square feet of retail space.

An 8/10/97 article in the New York Times, headlined Pairing State and U.S. Aid for Low-Income Housing, explained that Bakery Village was awarded $1.49 million in tax credits and a $2.16 million state grant. (I don't know if that's all the funding it got.)

RPM's Edward Martoglio said the tax credits had raised $10 million, "70 percent of the financing for the more than $14 million project."

It only cost $14 million? That's a rounding error in the Atlantic Yards project.

Of course one difference is that the building cost RPM only $100,000, while Forest City Ratner, anticipating the opportunity to build a density exceeding current zoning, bought the bakery as part of a package with another building from Shaya Boymelgreen for $44 million, according to the Brooklyn Paper, a sum more than double what Boymelgreen paid, .

Smart Growth Award

The Bakery Village project won a 2002 Smart Growth Award from smart growth organization New Jersey Future.

The citation honored the RPM Development Group and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs "for balancing security and community, defining space, creating visual interest, and respecting context in Bakery Village, Newark."

The citation continued:
The Newark-East Orange borderline runs directly through the site of the old Ward Bakery, a neighborhood employer that had closed its doors in 1979 amidst a host of financial and environmental difficulties. But where others saw a dilapidated structure in a decaying neighborhood, Ed Martoglio of RPM Development Group envisioned safe and inexpensive apartments. Mr. Martoglio and RPM, specialists in urban revitalization projects, moved to purchase the property in 1994, and, as the sole bidder, acquired it for $100,000.

Initially, the City of East Orange resisted the transformation of the Bakery into affordable housing, and instead encouraged RPM to develop commercial occupancy. Yet, the location and existing condition of the building frustrated any attempt to attract retail occupants, and ultimately, Mr. Martoglio received approval for a mixed-use plan which would combine 125 rental units with a community center, a day-care facility, and 16,000-square-feet of commercial space. The development company recruited architect Jack Inglese, an experienced designer of affordable housing projects, to insure premium livability, attractive frontage and interiors, and an aesthetic that harmonized the new Bakery Village with the surrounding neighborhood while preserving echoes of the building's industrial history.

However, before renovation could begin, massive structural improvements and cleanup were necessary. The Ward Bakery had been classified as a brownfield site: electrical transformers that had been stored there had leaked PCBs into the concrete. The site conformed to industrial standards of environmental cleanliness, but was deemed unsuitable for residential use. RPM needed to pour two inches of concrete over every floor surface in the entire building, and replace slabs and floorboards that had buckled and decayed. The old Ward Bakery operated 30-foot boilers--it took the construction team a full month to dismantle the apparatus.

The cost of this cleanup and renovation work was substantial, and the RPM Development Group assumed the entire investment for the first two years of the project. Beyond their own financial commitment, Mr. Martoglio sought -- and received -- substantial assistance from state and county agencies. The major financial partners in the renovation of the Ward Bakery are the Balanced Housing Program of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, and the DCA-affiliated New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, an organization that helps fund redevelopment through tax credits. A bridge loan from the Essex County Economic Development Department, a construction loan from Fleet Bank, and a permanent loan from the Thrift Institutions Community Investment Corporation of New Jersey also provided invaluable help in ameliorating the inevitable cost overruns that occur in the implementation of a plan of this scope.

Competition for a share of the state's allocation of ten million dollars in tax credits is fierce--only one out of every four eligible projects receives approval, and criteria for eligibility are strict. Coupled with the solid and enthusiastic support of zoning boards and community affairs organizations in East Orange and Newark, Mr. Martoglio's familiarity with government financing and comfort with the tax credit system won the support of the chairperson of the Mortgage Finance Agency and the Department of Community Affairs. With funding secured, RPM was free to turn attention to the creation of a fully functional and aesthetically satisfying affordable housing project--one that could serve simultaneously as a model for other low-income developments and as a focal point for the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood.

Walking through the lobbies, hallways, and apartments of the Bakery Village, the fruits of the Martoglio-Inglese partnership are apparent. The handsome foyer, decorated with elegant stained glass windows representing various stages in the building's history, generates a sense of openness as well as a feeling of security, familiarity, and the welcome continuity of neighborhood landmarks. Mr. Inglese has preserved many of the most characteristic and charming features of the Ward Bakery, including the green industrial facades and the terra cotta cornice. The importance of the building to the neighborhood is perpetually reinforced, but the architectural tropes never feel imposing or clinically institutional. The RPM team, committed to environmentally conscious construction, has installed energy-efficient features wherever possible: thermal fiberglass windows, thick insulation, state-of-the-art boilers and electrical networks. Factory-sized windows brighten living quarters, spacious indoor parking increases the desirability of the address. Perhaps most impressively, the Bakery Village offers its low-income residents thorough and rigorous security that never feels intrusive or threatening -- while the building, located in the center of a high-crime area, is carefully monitored through the use of video equipment and identification, there is scant external evidence of surveillance.

In 2005, the Urban Land Institute, a national organization, followed up with an article based on the above citation.


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…