Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 23
 
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
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Borough to Make Public Parking Garage Financials; Comment Invited Tonight

Dilshanie Perera
Linda Arntzenius

The substance of Princeton Borough Council’s long series of private negotiations with its developer, Nassau HKT Urban Renewal Associates LLC., concerning Phase II of the development of the downtown area bounded by Tulane and Spring streets will be brought before the public tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Borough Hall, along with a presentation of the costs of remediation of the basement of the Spring Street parking garage that was a part of Phase I of the development project.

At last week’s Council meeting, Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi reported on a set of estoppels that are to be agreed on between the Borough Council and NHKT. Mr. Bruschi defined the estoppels as signed statements attesting to certain facts made by one party for the benefit of another.

Borough Council has been asked to verify facts pertaining to the NHKT redevelopment project. The legally-binding estoppels would be signed by representatives of both NHKT and the Borough. “The parties to the estoppel certificates would be prevented from later claiming a different set of facts,” said Mr. Bruschi.

The estoppels would allow NHKT to obtain funding from its lender and allow the long stalled Phase II of the development (a five-story commercial/residential building on the current Tulane Street parking lot) to move forward.

Phase I of the development resulted in disputes between the Borough and the developer over water damage in the parking garage basement and the issue of ground rent due for the municipal parking lot.

Mr. Bruschi described three areas to be agreed upon:

A Financial Agreement to acknowledge, among other things, that all the money currently due to the Borough has been paid, and to describe lender obligations to the Borough.

A Lessor Agreement to clarify NHKT rental payments to the Borough, as well the lender’s obligations and rights.

A Redevelopment Agreement to specify the obligations of the Borough and NHKT regarding the proposed five-story commercial and residential building to be constructed on the site of the current Tulane Street parking lot.

Following Mr. Bruschi’s presentation to the Council last week, Councilman Roger Martindell expressed doubts as to the benefits of the development plan, asking the Council to “consider whether we owe the public an explanation about why this deal is worth doing at all.”

In response to Mr. Martindell’s remarks, Councilman David Goldfarb, expressed the view that the Borough should honor previous quid pro quo agreements it had made at the beginning of the project. “Phase I had most of the public benefit, while Phase II is mostly a private development project,” he said.

The first phase of the plan resulted in the Hinds Plaza, a mixed use residential and commercial building, and the Spring Street Parking Garage.

According to Mayor Trotman, the next phase would include 54 units of affordable housing as well as a grocery store.

Council discussed the impact of Phase II on parking in downtown Princeton. Both Mayor Trotman and Mr. Goldfarb contended that the project would not lead to a parking shortage, since the spaces in the parking garage currently constitute a surplus of parking.

Mr. Martindell urged his colleagues to proceed with caution. “We don’t have to put ourselves under the gun to accommodate the developer,” he said. “I think we put ourselves at a disadvantage in negotiations…we have to review the proposals with an open mind and at the end of the day, we might say no.”

Council President Peggy Karcher reminded those present of the beginnings of the project, saying that it was initially conceptualized as a “benefit to the Borough to eliminate surface parking lots, and to enliven the downtown by providing affordable housing,” a food market, and so on. “I don’t think we can get away from those initial thoughts.”

Tonight’s discussion will be an opportunity for Princeton taxpayers to share their thoughts on the downtown development project, the proposed estoppels, and the parking garage financials.

Action will be taken by Borough Council on Tuesday, June 10, following tonight’s public comment and further review by Borough staff.

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