NEWARK, NJ (AP) Last call came 18 years late for the old Pabst Brewery, whose huge rusty red bottle made it a particular New Jersey icon.
Demolition crews began tearing down the brewery on Aug. 5. Housing and a shopping center will rise on the site, which straddles the Newark-Irvington border. The $33-million project is key to the redevelopment hopes of both Essex County cities.
“This is a great day for the city of Newark as we turn this dangerous eyesore into a productive shopping and housing complex which will bring tax ratables to our budget and jobs and opportunities to our residents,” Newark Mayor Sharpe James said.
New West, the site developers, estimated the project will provide 200 construction jobs and more than 1,300 permanent jobs. Currently, the site generates $217,685 a year in property taxes.
The company hopes to have the shopping center portion of the project open by fall 2005.
Still to be determined is the fate of the 60-ft. tall bottle that stands atop the brewery building. Visible for miles, particularly to traffic on the Garden State Parkway, the bottle once served as a 55,000-gal. water tower. Six men could stand on its crown.
City officials and neighborhood groups have proposed relocating the bottle to a nearby park. It remains to be seen whether it can be safely removed and preserved, officials said.
The bottle has been seen on an episode of “The Sopranos” and was even the subject of a song, “The Big Pabst Bottle.”
It was erected in 1930 to promote Hoffman Pale Dry Ginger Ale.
The company began brewing beer at the site in 1934. In 1945, Pabst purchased Hoffman and painted the bottle blue. It has since faded to a rusted red. The brewery has been closed for 18 years.
Of the many breweries that once called Newark home, including Ballantine, Krueger, Henseler, Feigenspan, Weidenmayer and Anheuser-Busch, only Anheuser-Busch remains today.
“This represents a very significant portion of our redevelopment,” Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith said. “This is historic. There is no border fight over who’s going to do what and who’s going to get what. We are literally joined at the hip.”
Virginia Bauer, the state’s new commerce and economic development chief, presented the two mayors with a giant mock check representing $1.8 million in funds from the state Urban Enterprise Zone Assistance Fund, which will help the project.
Referring to her previous job as director of the New Jersey Lottery, Bauer said her favorite part of that job was passing out checks.
“Guess what?” she asked. “You won the lottery! One million, eight hundred thousand dollars!”
Founded in Milwaukee in 1844, Pabst is the nation’s fourth-largest beer company, selling more than 25 labels. Among its best-known names are flagship Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, Schlitz, Lone Star, Pearl, Colt 45 and Stroh’s.
The company does not own any brewing plants of its own. Instead, Pabst has long-term contracts with other brewers to produce its beers.
AP Photo: The old Pabst Brewery complex in Newark, NJ, will be demolished to create housing and a shopping center, officials announced.