The Berg Hat Factory, a massive 70,000 square foot, three-building complex located on the Orange/West Orange neighborhood boarders, along the NJ Transit train line, was once the largest producer of hats in the nation. In its heyday, at the turn of the 20th century, Berg, along with 33 other hat manufacturers, was part of what was known as Hat City, a booming industrial area that was an economic engine supporting families and communities.
But, by the early 1900’s, the economy began to shift. Berg went out of business, as did the other hat manufacturers and industrial businesses in the area.
Then, in the early 2000’s, New Jersey Community Capital’s (NJCC) President Wayne Meyer, who was then Housing Director at the Orange-based nonprofit HANDS, along with Executive Director Pat Morrissy, began working with local residents and leaders to shape the redevelopment of the area.
NJCC was key to making the plan a reality, beginning with providing HANDS a loan to acquire the factory. NJCC then shifted to the role of co-developer. Through its nonprofit real estate subsidiary, Community Asset Preservation Corporation (CAPC), NJCC helped HANDS to both find the full financing needed and provide the expertise to facilitate and complete the construction.
With the recent reopening of the former Berg Hat Factory as 32 condominiums and 10 commercial spaces for artists, the Valley Arts District is on the verge of fulfilling the vision forged by Meyer, Morrissy, CAPC, HANDS and the community. Thanks to its transformative impact, the Berg Hat Factory complex was named a winner of the New Jersey Futures Smart Growth Award.