Inside the old can factory American Can Company will be 551 condos
by Ricardo Kaulessar Reporter staff writer
Apr 01, 2007 | 2131 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What do you do with a huge vacant factory building that's nowhere near the waterfront?

If you are the New York City-based developer Coalco New York, you turn the former American Can Company - a million-square-foot building that can be seen from Routes 1 & 9 in Jersey City - into 551 condos and call them Canco Lofts.

Coalco started the second largest building conversion project in Jersey City (the other taking place currently with the old Jersey City Medical Center) last fall and is scheduled to open a sales showroom in the near future.

The Canco project is located at Dey Street near Journal Square.

Coalco Construction Services was formed in 1997 as a subsidiary of Coalco International, a global investment and development company with experience in the United States, Central European, and Russian real estate markets. The Jersey City project is their first in the city and in Hudson County.A look back at American Can

The American Can Company, known back in the day as Canco, was responsible for making aerosol cans, milk cartons, and glass bottles with brand names such as Dixie and Marathon. The company built the factory in 1929 for $5 million. It employed over 3,000 people, many of whom were bitter over the closing.

Then-Mayor Paul Jordan, as quoted in a 1979 New York Daily News article, called its 1974 closing "the cheapest shot" during his administration.

The company then moved its operations to Connecticut and New York.

After the Jersey City closing, a succession of tenants occupied the complex. The first two buildings were slated for use as a cyber hotel, until the Internet boom of the 1990s went bust at the end of the decade. Construction, amenities

The renovation of American Can will be done in two phases. The developer seeks to build 202 condominiums and about 160 parking spaces in the first phase, and then add 349 more condos and about 300 parking spaces in the second phase.

There will be three levels of parking inside the building.

Work for the first phase started last fall, according to Coalco Director of Marketing Edward Yorukoff. Much iron work and internal sprinklers were removed and oversized elevator shafts were shrunk down. Yorukoff estimated that this phase will be completed by March 2009.

When the entire project is completed, one-, two-, and three-bedroom lofts, ranging in size from 640 to 1,663 square feet, will be on sale from over $200,000 for a flat, to about $650,000 for a two-story penthouse.

The lofts will have such attractive features as 14-foot ceilings that increase to between 17 and 24 feet in the penthouses. Donation and tax abatement

Coalco President Mikhail Kurnev presented a donation of $65,000 to the Jersey City Museum on Wednesday as part of a deal reached with city officials to justify receiving a 30-year tax abatement last year.

Kurnev said he found out the building was for sale in 2005 and has gotten only positive feedback about working in the Journal Square area that's starting to be revitalized.

"We think that it's a wonderful project, a beautiful building, very well located, and close to transportation," said Kurnev.

When asked if the magnitude of such a project was the reason Coalco was granted the tax abatement, Kurnev said it wasn't for his benefit.

"Abatement is something that is not in any way beneficial to developers," said Kurnev. "It's beneficial for future, prospective customers."

Kurnev said the abatement also was needed as the condos "will not command top prices like on the Jersey City waterfront" and had to be affordable.

Yorukoff said that the abatement doesn't go into effect until the building conversion is completed.

Tax abatements are granted by the City Council to exempt a developer from regular, fluctuating property taxes. The deals are an incentive to help a developer build in a blighted area, but some believe that the city gives out too many, and because the money goes directly to the city budget but not the county or school budgets.

Usually, a developer gets a separate deal to make Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) to the city over 20 or 30 years. Looking ahead

Yorukoff said the second construction phase is immanent because of demand - more than 1,000 people signed a preview list to check out the building.

"I would like to say we could see that far down the road," said Yorukoff. "I would say we have ample interest to go to phase two."

After the conversion, there's still more to come on the property. Yorukoff said a low-rise warehouse adjoining the main building and a parking lot located directly across Dey Street could be developed into 600 more condos, which city zoning would allow for.

"Nobody really looked at that building as residential conversion," said Kurnev, "so it took some vision on our part to see that building converted into residential lofts." Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com
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