Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 45
 
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
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Borough’s Pergola Finally Rises on Plaza; Tiny Park Causes Intense Discussion

Matthew Hersh

What had been something of a poster child of Princeton Borough’s stalled downtown redevelopment project, is now, finally, looming over Hinds Plaza, providing good news for a project that, recently, has been lacking just that.

A pergola lining an approximately 60-foot stretch of the southern side of the plaza along the backs of a stretch of Spring Street stores started to elevate Monday, and by Tuesday, columns rose, giving the public a look at the structural outline of the $150,000 project.

The pergola is effectively the final piece of the first phase of the puzzle that has been Princeton Borough’s downtown redevelopment project. The first segment, or Phase I, involved the construction of the plaza and pergola, the mixed-use residential and commercial building, Witherspoon House, and the Spring Street municipal garage.

The project was hampered early by the exit of deposed former general contractor Troast, amid a series of liens filed by subcontractors, as well as water seepage in the garage basement. And while the liens have been resolved, and the garage, according to developer Nassau HKT, has undergone remediation, the pergola had yet to be completed, due to a quantity of obstacles, including a change in NHKT ownership and the need to work with Verizon in acquiring an easement there to remove a utility pole.

“It was just about pulling the many loose ends together and getting the installer back on track,” said Borough administrator Robert Bruschi in an interview Tuesday. Mr. Bruschi said that engineering obstacles were compounded by the fact that original plans had outlined the pergola’s installation before the plaza construction was complete.

“It’s a great thing to have done, and the plaza can be capped off and finished and we can move on,” Mr. Bruschi said. Some Spring Street shops, including Farrington’s and Shop the World, have expressed concern that a pergola would eliminate rear entrances, but Mr. Bruschi said the Borough had worked with store owners there, and that the original pergola design has been reconfigured to accommodate rear access to Spring Street stores.

Borough Hall is expected to continue to set its sights on working with NHKT in moving forward with Phase II of the redevelopment project involving a five-story mixed residential and commercial building on the South Tulane Street surface parking lot. The Borough and developer have been mired in negotiations, resulting in significant delays to the project, which first received Planning Board approval in spring 2004. Major sticking points include how much ground rent the developer owes to the Borough for the Tulane lot and who will pick up costs related to legal fees from the Phase I claims.

In recent months, some members of Borough Council have embarked on a public campaign criticizing the nature of closed session developer-municipal negotiations.

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In other news, residents of Pine Street are expected Wednesday to seek permission to take a pocket park on their street back in to their own hands. The 30-by-34-foot park has been the centerpiece in a years-long discussion over its rehabilitation.

Earlier this year, the Borough completed an estimated $40,000 project that involved new benches, a terrace area, and decorative boulders, but residents have taken exception to the boulders being more than 12 inches above ground level, pointing to potentially hazardous situations for children. Twenty-seven of 29 Pine Street residents have signed a petition supporting that further repairs be made to the park at private expense.

Borough Hall is expected to address the issue this evening. Council’s regular Tuesday meeting was moved to Wednesday due to Election Day.

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