Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 14
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
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More Stores Are Coming, but Right Now Nassau Street Is Looking Pretty Empty

Matthew Hersh

Even with new stores on the horizon, Nassau Street is looking mighty lonely right now. This week the Children's Place and Foot Locker closed shop in what is informally known as the Woolworth building at 116 Nassau Street. Moreover, the two adjacent buildings, 110 Nassau and 112-114 Nassau, the former home of Micawber Books, are also now vacant, leaving a wide swath of ground level storefronts on the block between South Tulane and Witherspoon Streets completely unused.

Walk a block over, and find that two prime storefronts, the former homes of Burger King and Hinkson's at 82 Nassau, are still underutilized. The Kiosk has temporarily moved its operations into the former Hinkson's while its Palmer Square home gets a major facelift. Hinkson's has since moved to nearby 28 Spring Street.

And while the Children's Place-Foot Locker-Micawber closings are all related to Princeton University's new Labyrinth Books and a PU apparel shop slated to open there in the fall, some businesses worry that this could translate into a summertime slowdown. There is still no known planned use for 110 Nassau, which the University purchased in the Micawber deal.

But with new residents lined up for restaurant and retail, the old Hinkson's building will very likely add life to that part of Nassau again. "What this does is give stores a whole new population of people," Mr. Landau said.

Neither Borough Merchants for Princeton's Kathie Morolda nor Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Karen Colimore were available for comment, but several merchants have said privately that rising rents are likely to complicate the ideal of swift turnover in the event of an on-street vacancy, one of the reasons generally cited in 2004, when Hinkson's began looking, first at the Princeton Shopping Center, and then finally at a then-new piece of retail space on Spring Street.

That may be one of the reasons why a new piece of attractive Nassau Street retail property lies just outside of the Central Business District, past St. Paul's Church, on an eastern stretch of Nassau Street, formerly known as Gasoline Alley.

"It's still in town," said Jessica Durrie, owner of Small World Coffee when her shop opened its satellite location at 254 Nassau Street. Ms. Durrie cited fewer cars as a possible attraction for business owners, many of whom have enjoyed long-standing vitality there. Jay's Cycle, Hoagie Haven, Tiger Noodles, George's Roasters & Ribs, and Old World Pizza, to name just a few.

But if the old adage of "change is good" is true, then Princeton's CBD will be recoup, erasing what is now a lonely look indeed.

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