But after a while, the market dried up in the area. Some of the factories turned into neighborhood eyesores and troublespots for vagrants.
However, developers discovered that these spacious structures could be re-developed into impressive residential areas.
Such is the idea behind Weehawken's latest condominium complex, a 16-unit luxury facility located on Hackensack Plank Road. The appropriately-named Embroidery Lofts had a ribbon-cutting ceremony with township officials on hand Thursday afternoon.
Developers Rob and Jim Caulfield, brothers who own Fields Development Group in Hoboken, have developed and subsequently sold development condos since 1998, with the total value of their projects exceeding $125 million.
Some of their more notable projects include a 52-unit development on Ninth and Jefferson streets in Hoboken and another 55-unit complex on Willow Avenue, converting an old bank.
The brothers are also developing the Waldo Lofts, a 12-story building in the downtown Jersey City artist district. But the Embroidery Lofts represent the company's first attempt at developing in Weehawken's ever-burgeoning real estate market.
"It was a natural for us," Rob Caulfield said. "Weehawken has an up-and-coming market from a sales perspective. It's a good area, and Weehawken has a good name in the real estate development business. We wanted to get involved in the Weehawken market. We saw this property and acted on it fast."
The Embroidery Lofts is located at 203 Hackensack Plank Road, which used to house two embroidery factories and a popular neighborhood tavern called Kathy's Pub. But the bar closed about five years ago and the factories were not in use for more than a decade. The property was definitely an eyesore.
Some skyline views "It's a big plus for the town and a big plus for the neighborhood," said Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, who presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony and took a first tour of the 16 one-bedroom units, initially priced at $300,000. "Any development we've had lately has happened down on the waterfront. This was two old embroidery factories that had become a hazard to the neighborhood. It took five years for someone to step forward and make this happen."
The Embroidery Lofts feature individual washer and driers, as well as a fully stocked kitchen with heavy granite countertop and stainless steel appliances. The third and fourth floor units feature panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline.
"This is one of the first developments of this type outside of the Weehawken waterfront," Rob Caulfield said. "We're very happy about it."
Jim Caulfield echoed the sentiments.
"This building was designed to provide buyers with an appealing lifestyle commonly found along the Hudson River waterfront, but in a traditional neighborhood setting and at a considerably lower price," Jim Caulfield said.
Thirteen of the 16 units have already been sold, with the brothers' real estate company, Caulfield Real Estate, handling the sales.
"The response has been incredible," Rob Caulfield said. "We're getting the young professionals, the first-time buyers. We didn't put it out on the market until the project was 90 percent complete. We wanted prospective buyers to see the finished product first."
The idea worked, because the units sold rapidly.
"We're closing on many of the units next week, with occupancy set to begin the first week of September," Rob Caulfield said.
Turner believes that the Embroidery Lofts project is just the first of many others to follow in upper Weehawken.
"I think it's the start of a trend," Turner said. "Over the next five years, you'll see all of the old factories will be converted to residential buildings. The old usage is gone, so we have to find new ways to use the old buildings. This development is an asset to the neighborhood. Throughout the whole process with the Planning Board, we heard zero complaints. The Caulfield brothers did a wonderful job. This is a prime example of a commercial conversion done right."