Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 29
 
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
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Redevelopment Plans Discussed at Meeting With Borough Merchants

Dilshanie Perera

Developer Jack Morrison, contractor Michael Lee, and Borough staff attempted to allay merchants’ fears regarding Phase II of downtown redevelopment last Wednesday, laying out the projected timeline of the construction of Building C, which will be built on the site of the Tulane Street parking lot.

Besides being a partner of Nassau HKT, Mr. Morrison is the owner of the Witherspoon Grill and Nassau Street Seafood, and the owner of other businesses and properties in Princeton. Mr. Lee is the principal contractor for the project and vice president of Costanza Builders, which is located in Cherry Hill.

Construction of Building C is slated to take about 18 months, with December of 2009 as the estimated date of completion of the exterior, according to Mr. Morrison. He added that in the next 90 to 120 days, the Public Service Electric and Gas company will begin burying the telephone and utility lines along Spring Street. This will apparently increase infrastructure available to area merchants. Additionally, fencing will be put up around the Tulane Street lot to enclose the property.

Mr. Lee remarked that the excavation work on Building C will begin in August, though the sidewalks surrounding the site will be open for pedestrian access during that time.

In September, the sidewalks will close and the fence line will move out to the curb in the interest of public safety. Mr. Lee underscored that two marked crosswalks with handicap access will be created to allow pedestrians to cross safely to the other side of the street. One planned crosswalk will bisect Spring Street, and the other will run diagonally across South Tulane Street leading to the sidewalk in front of the Record Exchange.

When asked about construction apparatus by Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes, Mr. Lee replied that the crane used on-site will only swing over the construction zone and not over neighboring buildings, public walkways, or roads.

In an attempt to avoid undue traffic congestion, the construction project “will be treated as an urban setting,” meaning that most trucks and materials will be housed off site and will arrive as needed, according to Mr. Lee.

The smaller parking lot behind the Record Exchange, the Running Company, and Landau’s is slated to remain open, with the entryway into the lot becoming two-way. As a result, the four parking spaces adjacent to McLaughlin’s will be temporarily closed.

Once the exterior work and facade are complete, Mr. Lee suggested that things will be “more like normal” with the reinstallation of sidewalks and opening of the area. During this time, interior work will still be done on the 56 apartments and 4,000 square foot grocery store and retail spaces that will occupy the building.

Area merchants and property owners including Mark Bovenizer, owner of Community Liquors on Witherspoon Street, and Barry Weisfeld, owner of the Princeton Record Exchange, voiced their concerns regarding the impact of construction on their businesses, and asked about particular details.

Responding to questions about dirt in the area surrounding the site, Mr. Lee acknowledged that the “majority of dirt would be generated in the early part of the process.” The dust created from the site will be managed with water, and tracking pads at the entry and exit of the site will ensure that trucks do not track mud onto the street. He said that “there’s not a lot of earthwork going on” and Mr. Morrison added that six to eight feet would be the greatest depth of excavation.

A question was posed about the potential for machinery-related vibrations to disturb residents of the area. Mr. Morrison responded that a foundation specialist would be brought in “to look at the buildings that abut the property.”

Regarding groundwater, Mr. Morrison said that tanks would be on hand to pump out water should they be needed. Since Building C will not have a basement, concerns about flooding are minimal.

Mr. Wilkes urged collaboration between all parties, saying “we should start thinking ahead” to the completion of the construction.

While Mr. Morrison said that he hoped to install fencing around the construction zone on July 10, access to the parking lot remains day to day.

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