Hahne's building in Newark taking a step toward rehab as residential complex
New owners of the long-vacant Hahne’s department store in Newark will present plans tonight to convert the building into apartments and ground-level stores while preserving the historic feel of the 1901 building.
The 440,000-square-foot building was purchased by Newark-based Hanini Group in partnership with L&M Development, and they will lay out plans before the city’s Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission to turn it into a mix of apartments on the upper three floors and retail outlets on the ground level.
Beyer Blinder Belle, a New York firm specializing in historic preservation, will be the lead architects.
Hanini Group, along with Fidelco, has already converted several vacant buildings on Market Street near Broad Street into apartments with a waiting list of more than 200 applicants. It’s near completion of other units in the same area.
In most of their projects, brothers Samer and Thafer Hanini have made efforts to preserve the historic character of the buildings. They expect to do the same with Hahne’s.
This isn’t the first time owners have had a vision for the building, but construction of the new Prudential office tower a block south on Broad Street gives it a better chance this time of becoming a reality.
“There’s a tremendous amount of residential construction in Newark,” said Jeff Kolodkin, managing director at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a real estate advisory firm, “and for the first time in decades, there’s a feeling that these projects will get completed.”
The Hahne’s building has been the subject of rehabilitation plans since the 1990s when it was purchased by Miles Berger of the Newark-based Berger Group.
Cogswell Realty Group bought a majority share of the building and its neighbor, the Griffith Piano Co. tower, for $20 million in 2002 with plans to rehabilitate Hahne’s into luxury apartments. It partnered with the New Newark Foundation, which was backed by Prudential and philanthropist Ray Chambers, and envisioned a revitalized neighborhood springing up around Military Park and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Five years later, however, New Newark sued Cogswell, claiming it failed to develop the properties as promised.
Berger still owns the Griffith building and plans to convert it to a hotel. It also owns the Robert Treat and Carlton hotels nearby.
Kolodkin said the decision by Prudential to build its new 20-story office tower on Broad Street and the growth of Rutgers University in the city give this rehabilitation plan better odds than it had before.
“With Rutgers bringing in students and growing that campus, you don’t have to work hard to attract retail shops,” Kolodkin said. “If you have a solid base of office workers and students, then you have the after-5 p.m. people walking on the streets to get a yogurt or do some shopping.”
Investors are looking to build about 1 million square feet of student housing along Broad Street.
City and state officials have estimated $1 billion in private money is being invested in development projects in Newark.
“The Hahne’s building will connect the dots,” said Christian Benedetto, director of real estate services at Hopkins, Sampson & Brown, “making it one large downtown.”
Bill Mikesell of Mikesell & Associates, an architectural firm that has drawn rehabilitation plans for the building before, said the time is right for the new project.
“There’s money available and there’s a big push for residential housing,” he said. “When NJPAC was built, that was a major transformation and a lot change was expected. But when other things were supposed to happen, the economy fell on its face.”
The Hahne & Co. building was built in 1901 and served as the retailer’s flagship store. It closed in 1986. The building is listed on state and national registers of historic places.