Garage Analysis Suggests a Flaw In Structural Design
The wet garage basement that has stymied the developer in the downtown development project could be the result of an error in the Spring Street Municipal Garage's structural design, the results of an independent analysis said.
According to Robert Powell, principal of Nassau HKT & Associates (NHKT), the developer of the project that includes the garage, the plaza adjacent to the library, and the planned five-story building on the Tulane Street surface parking lot, a "substantial" cause of the water seepage was due to a miscalculation by the designing firm, HNTB Architecture, Inc, based in Kansas City, Mo. The design team itself was based in Washington D.C.
While no flooding exists, the wet basement has thus far prevented the developer from breaking ground on the Tulane Street lot. A stipulation in the developer's agreement with Princeton Borough requires a permanent certificate of occupancy (CO) for the garage before the project can move forward. The water, coming up from Harry's Brook, has kept that CO from being issued.
"We're waiting to hear a response from the design team," Mr. Powell said, adding that finances for the garage remediation would be put up by the developer while it attempts to work on an arrangement with HNTB.
However, that may take longer than anticipated. In a written statement to Town Topics, HNTB representatives said all mandates were followed in building the garage, with the implication that the fault lies with the developer.
"Architects and engineers designed foundations according to criteria that are based on the conditions of existing soils," the statement said, adding that the developer's geotechnical engineer "provided HNTB the soil conditions, criteria, and recommendations for the Spring Street Garage.
"HNTB correctly designed the garage according to those criteria."
Regardless of any disagreement between designer and developer, Mr. Powell said the garage repairs would happen. "We're prepared to pay first if we have to and we'll settle out with the design team in due course."
The cost of the remediation is "tolerable," Mr. Powell said, adding that it fell in the range of $300,000 to $400,000. "That's a substantial amount of money, but in the context of a $10-million garage, it's something that we can certainly handle.
Mr. Powell acknowledged the incentive to fix the garage and to get started on the Tulane building, and suggested that those repairs could be made by Thanksgiving, giving NHKT the ability to get foundations for the building in place before any deep freeze occurs in late January.
"Then we can pretty much work through the winter," he said.