Borrowing from the past, improving for the future

by admin

By Cara Aliek

The Residences at Dixon Mills possesses something ground-up buildings will never be able to achieve: status as a historical landmark. This five-building property is the former site of the Dixon Mills factory in Jersey City, N.J., and is in the process of converting apartments into 467 luxury condominiums. But to understand the historic relevance of this project, a dateline should be established.

In 1847, inventor Joseph Dixon built a factory in Jersey City, N.J., for his growing pencil company called the Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. Mr. Dixon wanted “a fine American name for a fine American pencil,” and named his writing utensil after Fort Ticonderoga in New York. The Civil War required a need for dry writing pieces and business soared. By 1869, the Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. was the world’s largest dealer and consumer of graphite. In 1982, the Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. merged with Bryn Mawr Corp. to form Dixon Ticonderoga Co., which today is based in Heathrow, Fla., and has manufacturing facilities all over the world.

Mr. Dixon’s Jersey City factory was converted into apartments in the late-1980s by New Jersey-based The Morris Company. The Robert Martin Co. acquired the property in 2006 and formed RGD Dixon, a venture with Golden Tree InSite Partners. The finished product will feature studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, and duplexes, triplexes and penthouses will also available.

Greg Berger, managing director/partner at The Robert Martin Co. said the location initially attracted his company to the project.

“What attracted us was the proximity to New York City. Jersey City is only 15 minutes from Manhattan and has had a tremendous renaissance over the last couple of years with many high-end developers making investments,” Berger said.

“Secondly, it’s a historic landmark. You can’t replicate a 7-acre property with 140-year-old bricks, cobblestone-style streets, an atrium and loft spaces. We have exposed brick, 12-foot ceilings and penthouses. The project’s unique features make our property very difficult to replicate,” Berger said.

Currently, The Residences at Dixon Mills is in Phase III of the renovation and has completed 150 renovated units to date. Phases I and II, which consist of the community’s first 100 residences, are sold out. Part of the challenge in renovating apartments to condominiums is coordinating existing residents, construction and new owners, something Berger says they’ve had success to-date with.

“It takes creativity to organize something like this. Many of the people who lived (as renters at Dixon Mills) have decided to purchase (condominium) units. Those who are vacating will do so over a period of time and then we go in and renovate them, market them and sell them. Not to mention construction that is ongoing. It can be a tricky application but everyone’s been really pleasant,” Berger said.

“We’ve become a great sales proposition as it compares to Manhattan. New York City is pricing a lot of people out of the market and in most cases, it’s less expensive to own at Dixon Mills than rent in Manhattan. We have a beautiful product and we’re proud of it,” Berger said.

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