The Tonnelle Avenue area of Jersey City has a new residential living space. It is located nine blocks west of Journal Square and just north of the historic Marion section of Jersey City. The former American Can Company brick building that retains most of its original exterior features has been readapted into condominium lofts. The first phase of the project, completed in 2007, took many years from the close of the factory in 1974.
American Can once employed over 3,000 workers at the Jersey City facility in the manufacture of milk cartons, aerosol cans, glass bottles and reportedly the first beer can. In 1957, it diversified with the production of paper containers for brand names such as Dixie and Marathon. The packaging plant was begun in 1929 when it was built for $5 million. Its leading competitor in the can making industry was the Continental Can Company. It operated a manufacturing plant in the old Horseshoe section of Jersey City at Monmouth, Coles, Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Streets.
The American Can Company had its headquarters in New York City until 1970. It became part of a conglomerate and in 1987 was renamed Primerica, which divested itself of the packaging sector.
SBLM architects of Manhattan renovated the once familiar Art Deco-era industrial site seen from New Jersey's heavily trafficked Tonnelle Circle. The million-square-foot complex was constructed as a series of five-reinforced concrete buildings with five towers and smokestacks. The dramatic multi-light windows and sawtooth skylights outline the otherwise stark industrial structures with designs of elongated diamonds along the roof line. Two of the five buildings were renovated with 202 condo units and 160 parking spaces in the first phase of the restoration. Over 300 units with parking are anticipated during the second phase. The restoration project has been compared with the conversion at the Medical Center Complex into The Beacon residences.
Today one enters CanCo Lofts, the one-time industrial complex, into a "destination" lobby designed by the architecture firm of LOT-EK of Manhattan. The lobby features "ceiling sculptures" and industrial piping with background illumination on one wall. Two dozen plasma television screens broadcast live scenes of the Manhattan skyline and local news. Giuseppe Legano of LOT-EK explains, "they can be used creatively to repeat the view of New York, so that it seems to be everywhere in the room, or splitting it into fragments so the screens make a whole 'painting' or to produce a panorama" (Quoted in Martin). The sales lobby has a hanging sculpture made of paint cans to reflect the historic use of the site. The residents may enjoy the amenities of a 10,000 square-foot recreational facility. The 24-foot ceilings and concrete columns remain and are now integral to the layout of the apartments.
Martin, Antoinette. "Both Untramodern and Dated." In the Region/New Jersey/New York Times 22 April 2007.
Kaulessar, Ricardo. "Inside the Old Can Factory American Can Company Will Be 551 Condos." Hudson Reporter 1 April 2007.
Kaulessar, Ricardo. "Yes, We 'Can'! American Can Company to Become 202 Condos; May See 600 in Total." Hudson Reporter 18 December 2005.