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Completion of New Garage Delayed; Costs Rise

Myrna K. Bearse

The hope of having the new Borough garage open for business in time for the last few weeks of holiday shopping will not come true. A combination of factors ‹ not the least of which were the spring rains that turned the excavation into a a small lake ‹ has moved the planned completion date from December to early March, 2004. In addition, there will be an increase in the cost of building the 500-space garage.

March is still a month ahead of the anticipated opening of the new public library, which will be served by 85 garage spaces set aside for library patrons. Opening the library ahead of the garage would likely cause serious parking problems for library patrons, as well as significant headaches for municipal officials trying to deal with unhappy library users.

The heavy rains and other factors will also lead to a delay in the completion of the plaza and five-story apartment building being constructed next to the garage, on the site of the former Park and Shop lot. A new construction timetable is currently being prepared, but it is possible that the plaza and apartment building will not be ready until early June, 2004.

Last Tuesday night, Borough Council approved a change order in the amount of $297,788 to cover the cost of treatment and disposal of the groundwater that was removed from the site. These costs may go up if the dewatering system must remain in operation for a longer period than anticipated.

No addition to the $13.5 million already bonded for the downtown development project is required; the nearly $300,000 increase in cost can be accommodated within the current bond.

The change order also provided a mechanism for Nassau HKT, the Borough's redevelopment partner, to pay for the jitney system that the Borough asked be established for construction workers. The cost for this service will be borne by the owners of the buildings whose workers ride on the jitney.

In addition to this, problems with the sheeting and shoring in the garage's foundation are expected to add another $300,000 to the cost of the garage. A change order in this amount is expected to be submitted for approval at the September 23 meeting of Mayor and Council.

The garage foundation's sheeting was put in by Public Service Electric & Gas as part of an agreement reached with the Borough. But because the sheeting doesn't go down deep enough, the contractor needs to do further excavation to reach solid soil.

At the time PSE&G did the work, said Borough engineer Carl Peters, soil conditions were still somewhat unknown. He said the Borough might have some leverage with PSE&G in receiving some subsidy, but that "the whole thing is such a moving target. We might go back to get some funds out of them, but we couldn't stop the project to wait for a decision to be made. It's a gray area. This is an issue between the Borough and PSE&G."

In another discussion of the downtown redevelopment, Council voted to confirm that the plans for Building C were consistent with the redevelopment agreement, and that Nassau HKT Associates could move forward to engage its professionals in the preparation of an application to the Regional Planning Board. Roger Martindell voted against this.

Building C, the second phase of the Borough redevelopment project, would begin after completion of the garage, apartment house, and plaza on the former Park and Shop lot. Five stories high, with a food store on a portion of the first floor, the building will contain 53 apartments, ten of which will be low- or moderate-income rental units. An additional two affordable units will be in the apartment house next to the garage.

It will be constructed on the current Tulane Street metered parking lot, and will feature a small landscaped courtyard with tables, chairs, and benches. While not technically a public park, Nassau HKT Principal Bob Powell appeared to imply that there could be some public use.

Food Market Planned

The requirement of having a food market is part of the redevelopment agreement between Nassau HKT and the Borough. Mr. Powell said the market would be between 5,500 and 6,000 square feet, with an entrance on the corner of Spring and Tulane streets.

He said his firm was "making very good progress in arranging for a food market," and suggested that it would employ people who would valet groceries while the shopper took his or her car from the garage.

Also on the first floor will be three live-and-work units, where a tenant could literally live above the shop. David Minno, architect for the project, said that having retail space on the first floor and living space above is an old idea that is being brought back. He suggested that this arrangement could work well for an artisan.

Even though concern was voiced in Council and by several in the audience about issues such as deliveries and trash collection, Councilman David Goldfarb asked that the application be allowed to proceed to the Planning Board. This body has a circulation subcommittee that deals with such issues.

Referring to circulation issues, Mr. Powell said, "We want it to work, the next stage is to address this with professionals. If we can't work the issue out with the Planning Board and the professionals, we won't get approval."

"They must meet the redevelopment agreement and the scrutiny of the Planning Board," agreed Mr. Goldfarb.

James Firestone, who recently withdrew his candidacy for Borough Council, said that, as head of Concerned Citizens of Princeton, he objected to the plan being rushed through. Concerned Citizens is appealing a judicial ruling permitting the construction of the redevelopment complex to take place.

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