Success Stories

The Chronicle Building
15 South Essex Avenue, Orange, NJ

This historic landmark building was built in 1903 and originally housed The Orange Chronicle, a daily newspaper.  It is ideally located just a few steps from Main Street and less than 100 yards from the Orange train station.Over the years it had become badly deteriorated and was occupied by a squatter with dozens of cats and dogs. In 2003, HANDS took title and restored the building to its former prominence. It is now home to the HANDS office, Pooka Pure and Simple Body Boutique, and artist live-work space. 

Before                                                        After

The Brass Company
540 - 544 Freeman Street, Orange, NJ

Once the home of West Orange Brass Company, three abandoned buildings on Freeman Street became HANDS' first project in the Valley Arts District with four retail storefronts dedicated to the arts, and four artist apartments above. The pioneer tenant was Arts Unbound, a non-profit organization committed to the artistic achievement of persons living with developmental disabilities, mental illness and physical challenges.

The Brass Company Buildings are now alive with art classes two galleries ( ARTSETC and Oualie Arts), music events and community meetings. The rear courtyard features a mural and a meditation labyrinth.

The Bakery
501 Central Avenue, Orange, NJ

Mostly remembered as Coquelle's, home of the best Italian pastries in Essex County, it was recently discovered that this was the home of S. Slack & Co., producers of remarkable stained glass windows dating back to 1870.

Once thought to be much younger, the origin of this 1870 building was revealed when HANDS was contacted by a descendant of its first owner, Stephen Slack, the famous stained glass artist, a contemporary of Tiffany.

HANDS has transformed the Bakery into the home of Southern Comfort Cafe, the brain child of Marcus Johnson and Rochelle Brown-Johnson, a well known producer for the FOOD Network and Emeril. Artist work studios now occupy the rear where bread and pastries were once produced.

Hat City Kitchen
459 Valley Street, Orange, NJ

This 1980's eatery and watering hole has seen better days but its revival by HANDS into Hat City Kitchen a neighborhood bar, restaurant and destination music venue brings life to a great location at the center of the Valley.

Formerly Ricci's in the Valley, HANDS restored this local landmark, continuing the tradition of good food and music. In 2010 Hat City Kitchen was rated "Best New Restaurant" by New Jersey Monthly Critic's Choice which is great publicity for a restaurant whose profits go back into the Valley Arts District revitalization activities.

Luna Stage Theater, Mazzi Dogz Cafe & Valley Community Police Center
555 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ

This one block of Valley Road has been transformed into an art complex, home to Luna Stage Theater Company, Mazzi Dogz  restaurant & cafe and West Orange Police Department substation.

John Winklemann of LWDMR Architect reimagined a cohesive and stylish complex out of three plain, former light industrial and residential buildings. Luna Stage's facility features a black box theater, studio theater, rehearsal studio, art gallery and administrative offices all designed to meet the needs of Luna Stage and its audience.

Ironworks Studio & Garden State Urban Farms
406 Tompkins Street, Orange, NJ

The truly unique Modern Ironworks shop on Tompkins Street once produced everything imaginable in steel. Its rebirth as a home for ORNG Ink, a non-profit organization for young artists to produce and sell their art brings Orange High School students out into the community and the arts community into OHS.


Garden State Urban Farms (GSUF) operates in a hydroponic greenhouse located on a formerly a vacant lot adjacent to Ironworks, Garden State Urban Farms collaborates with schools, nonprofit organizations and government groups to provide employment opportunities and educational programming as well as low-cost, healthy food in urban areas throughout New Jersey.

The first summer in the Valley, GSUF successfully implemented 80 Small Plot Intensive farming (SPIN) methods to grow vegetables and herbs in innovative, high yield container boxes on previously abandoned lots. Locations include Jersey City and Newark, NJ. By spring 2013, HANDS will build a third greenhouse in the Valley.

The Box Company
357 South Jefferson Street, Orange, NJ

In recent years, corrugated cardboard boxes were cut and bundled in this light industrial building transformed into an artisan workshop.

The Firehouse Lofts & ValleyArts Firehouse Gallery
580 Forest Street, Orange, NJ

Once home to horse-drawn fire wagons, the 1905 fire station will now house six stylish artist live/work lofts and a cooperative art gallery.  The restoration preserved much of the original brick and interior tin walls and ceilings while a distinctive redesign of interior loft spaces features large skylights, open floor plans, modern amenities and outdoor decks.

Despite the challenging economy, HANDS, Inc. rehabbed the property as part of an effort to revitalize a former industrial neighborhood known as the Valley. As part of the strategy to create one hundred permanently affordable arts spaces, HANDS is rehabilitating key properties to house artists, innovators and creative entrepreneurs – catalysts for bringing this urban neighborhood back to life in an equitable and inclusive way.

Project funding comes from the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program and corporate contributors Chubb Insurance, TD Bank, NJ PURE CURE and Valley National Bank.  Construction financing comes from New Jersey Community Capital.